Discovering the best way to keep reptiles warm

This research project evaluated the heat provision for effective thermoregulation reptiles at Chester Zoo; komodo dragons, Galapagos tortoises and red tailed racers. By conducting this research we found that spot lamp heating provisions are not suitable for large reptiles as they do not heat the entire length of the animal, but are effective for smaller species.

This study aimed to evaluate and improve heat provision for Komodo dragons, Galapagos tortoises and red tailed racers to enable them to effectively thermoregulate. Thermal measurements were taken of both the animals and their ambient surroundings to show the elevation of current heat levels.

A laser pointer thermometer was used to record the temperature of the individuals whilst basking and a thermal imaging camera was used to measure heat distribution of the animals. Behaviour was also recorded for each animal to determine how they maintained body temperature.

This was achieved using camera traps that took images every minute during zoo opening hours. Data loggers were used to determine the ambient temperature of the enclosures. This study demonstrated that for large reptiles such as Komodo dragons and Galapagos tortoises, spot lamp heating provisions are not suitable as they do not heat the entire body length of the animal.

Heat panels may provide slightly less heat compared to spot lamps, but the distribution of heat is more widespread and this enables the reptiles to effectively thermoregulate. Larger reptiles were found to use spot lamps, potentially as a method of heating up quickly, before moving to the heat panel. Spot lamps were found to be effective heat sources for smaller reptile species such as the red tailed racers.

The findings from this project resulted in changes of heat provision sources for the reptile species housed at Chester Zoo.

Project team

Key Facts

Individual spot lamps are not effective at heating larger reptiles
A combination of spot lamps and heat panels help larger reptiles to effectively thermoregulate
Spot lamps were found to be effective heat sources for smaller reptiles

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