The Caiman

Inhabiting central and south America, these are smaller than most crocodylians, growing between the smallest dwarf caiman at 3ft long and the largest at 13ft, the black caiman. One of the most commonly come across in zoos if you visit is the Spectacled caiman. I saw on at Chester Zoo yesterday. Typically arund 6ft long at full length. They feed on many invertabrates suprisingly, such as insects and molluscs etc. But also larger ones feed on fish and occasionally mammalian prey.

Hunting is not a frequent problem for these animals, as they are not wanted for skin or any other purpose. They were once thought to be depleting fish numbers, but it has been observed that they in fact stop feeding during dryer seasons. Under the IUCN red list this species is listed as least concern.

Climbing Crocs

Recent studies have discovered that crocodiles can actually climb, after observing the creatures basking in trees.


 Their abilities vary between species and depending on size, with smaller crocs reaching the higher branches. It is believed that they do this not only to bask in the sun, but also to survey their area with a better vantage point, to be on the look out for prey, predators and competitors. 

The finding may have implications for the study of extinct animals from fossils, as little about the skeletons of living crocodiles suggests that they have climbing ability.  

Dr Paul Willis, director of the Royal Institute of Australia, in Adelaide, is a palaeontologist who published research on the possibility of extinct tree-dwelling crocodiles in the 1990s. He says that the idea was met with bemusement at the time, so the new finding is a pleasant surprise.

Trevor the Chameleon

I am currently waiting to see if I can get an interview to do a 3 month internship at Chester Zoo. I’m hoping it can be with reptiles, but they don’t usually do that with 3 month interns, only the 1 year, which I can’t afford to do at the moment because it is unpaid. After doing experience in a small zoo in 2012, to be able to do it for 3 months is so exciting. 

When I worked at Kirkley Hall zoo volunteering, I met a very interesting chameleon who they called Trevor. Trevor was a panther chameleon.

Panther Chameleons


 A species of chameleon that are found in Madagascan tropical forests. Male panther chameleons reach on average a length of around 17 inches, bigger than and more colourful than the females. 

I always found their feet interesting, they have 5 toes on each foot fused together in groups of 3 and 2, so they kind of look like a pair of tongs and they have a good grip. One of the most well know attributes of chameleons are their strong and fast tongues that can reach their prey within thousandths of a second.

When keeping these as pets, they require a varied diet, a mixture of live foods including, crickets, meal worms, wax worms and roaches. Another very important point is the need of fresh air flow, failure to provide this can lead to respiratory problems. 

Sister Groups and Clades

I have recently started learning about taxonomy, quite difficult on your own without having someone to explain things as you read but it is interesting non the less. I started off by reading about evolutionary groups of reptiles and amphibians.

So basically, a clade (taken from a term meaning branch in Ancient Greek) is a group that derives from one ancestor and all of its descendants. That ancestor could be an individual or a species, which in turn could be extinct or extant (no longer existing or existing today). Clades are more easily understood by being mapped out onto phylogenetic trees. (Phylogenetics is the study of evolutionary groups). Here is an example of a simplified version (I couldn’t quite find the tree I wanted on google):


Now sister groups are two taxa that derive from an immediate common ancestor. For example in the diagram above, crocodilians are sisters to birds.

This is my understanding so far on the topic anyway, if there are some corrections to be made place share your input, this is new ground to me and I am still learning, so I don’t expect to get it perfect first time. However, I hope this may help to anyone struggling to understand the concept.

Amphibian conservation in the forefront – A million dollars put towards conservation of amphibians in 2014.

Amphibian populations have been on rapid decline in recent years, at a rate said to be rivalled only by the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. Habitat destruction of one of the major factors in the decline of these amazing animals, who have populated our earth for hundreds of millions of years, and it is from amphibians that reptiles would evolve. Over half of the approximate 7000 species of amphibians are in decline, with a third being on the IUCN Red List of threatened species, and an estimated 120 species are to be lost in the immediate future. The life for these creatures is a delicate balance for environment, an entire species could occupy one small river or area, and once that is destroyed, the species is gone. There is a substantial number of amphibian species existing in non protected habitats, which is a major problem for their survival. It is imperative that more protected areas are established to ensure the safety of amphibians and giving them a future. 

 Habitat destruction is not the only threat to amphibians, but they are battling against lethal diseases. The main culprit being chytridiomycosis, a fungal infection that is highly infectious, contagious, and incurable. Little is known about the origins and the way in which chytrid works, and there are currently no methods of controlling the disease. I have recently written a report of the effects of this disease, if anyone is interested you can access that here –

 A recent fund set up by the ASA (Amphibian Survival Alliance), named the Leapfrog Conservation Fund, is striving to protect amphibians and their habitats through protected areas starting with the most threatened habitats. For more information, and also for funding for a project please visit –

Lizard Families – Scincidae


This lizard family can be known as the skink family. It consists of 1400 species and is the largest of the lizard families. Skinks appear in their largest numbers in South East Asia and Australia, but can be found on every continent with the exception of Antarctica. Being such a big family, the skinks range greatly in habitats, appearances and behaviours. From forests to deserts, from limbless to all fours, on ground, beneath the ground and up in trees. Many skinks are good swimmers and prefer a more aquatic environment.


One member of this family is known as the green-blooded skink, green is very much the colour in this lizards’ life. The back and sides of it’s body are green, much like the colour of the inside of its mouth and even including the eggs it produces!

With such variety among the family, it is difficult to describe a typical skink, however they have an elongated body and the head is rarely differentiable from the body. Some species have limbs that are too small for any use, and then some have none at all. Using their long bodies to burrow underground in a snake-like motion.


Three species of skink are now Extinct, 29 are listed as Critically Endangered, 50 are Endangered and 61 are Vulnerable.

White’s Tree Frog

A tree frog native to my favourite place – Australia, it reaches around 10cm in length and is one of the larger species of tree frog in Australia. These frogs make popular pets for amphibian lovers, along with being highly recognisable and in captivity can have a life span of around 16 years which is long for a frog’s life. 


 At one time this species was known as the blue frog, this may seem unusual as it is a green colour. But the reason for this name was that, for these frogs to get their green colour, they have layers of colour pigment, they have blue and green covered by a layer of yellow. When specimens were first sent to England, the preservatives used damaged the yellow pigment layer and resulted in a blue appearance. Another interesting fact is that their skin secretions have found to have antibacterial properties and have reported to be able to destroy HIV without damaging healthy cells. 

White’s Tree Frogs are nocturnal, and are often found near still water in tree canopies. Their diet typically consists of insects and spiders, but they have been known to eat smaller frogs also. 

Habitat loss and the chytrid fungus has been reducing the numbers of these frogs, however they are labelled as ‘least concern’ on the IUCN red list.