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· Herp Nerd
1,116 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I wrote a post on another forum a while back explaining some of the various terms used in reptile keeping, figured since someone asked I'd copy it over here - and add a bit to it. Maybe others have some things to add that I haven't thought of.

RES - red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) the most common turtle species available in captivity.
JCP - jungle carpet python (Morelia spilota cheynei)
BP - usually, ball python (Python regius)
Burm - burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus)
Retic - reticulated python (Python reticulatus)
Crestie - crested gecko (Rhacodactylus ciliatus)
Leo - leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius)

I'm sure there's lots I'm missing here, there are countless common terms herp keepers use to refer to their animals, especially online. :)

Color Phases:
Amelanistic aka, Albino - Many people confuse albino; thinking it means no color at all, or an all white animal. It actually means no black pigment. They can still have reds, yellows, and what not. (Albino Burmese Python Image and a Albino Corn Snake Image, note the distinct differences in coloration despite both being albino)
Anerythristic - Lack of red pigment. (Anery Corn Snake Image)
Hypomelanistic - Reduced black pigment.
Axanthic - No yellow pigment.
Snow - Means different things depending on what species you are referring to - usually amel + axan or amel + anery. Usually results in a mostly white colored animal, with red eyes. (Snow Corn Snake Image)
Piebald - large areas of the scales are pure white, but not the whole snake.

Most "morph" names are made up by the breeder that developed the morph, so often there is little standardization or logic to what it actually means genetically.

Glottis - basically the breathing tube. Of course, when snakes have their faces crammed full of food since they eat prey whole, it is obviously difficult to breathe. Normally snakes breathe through their nostrils, but when swallowing prey or when agitated snakes will breathe through a flexible tube at the bottom of the mouth. The tube can lean to the left or right and allow them to breathe even with he largest of prey in their mouth/throat. It closes when not in use (or to prevent anything from going down it, like food/water) This is also where the classic hisses come from. ( Image of the glottis of a Texas Rat Snake)
Heat pits, heat sensors, labial pits - an adaptation by some snakes - some boas, most pythons, and especially pit viper snakes which are actually named for them of an organ in their face that is used to detect heat. It is believed that they can register a temperature difference of a fraction of a degree. It is used largely to sense body heat of mammalian prey when they can't see it. If you've ever seen the movie Predator, that is probably how snakes can perceive the world - though probably not in such a graphical way. :) Recent research also suggests that they use their heat sensors to detect good hiding places, being cold-blooded, snakes rely entirely on the temperature of their environment to maintain body temperature - primarily for digestion. (Images of heat pits on various species: Burmese Python, Jungle Carpet Python, Amazon Tree Boa and Canebrake Rattlesnake)
Hemipenes - the male reptile's sexual organs. In most cases they actually have two. (Image of a Crested Gecko's hemipene)
spur - on some pythons and boas these are the vestigial remnants of hind legs. They manifest themselves a small little hooks on either side of the vent. (Spurs on a Burmese Python, size idea)
Cloaca or vent - the biological definition is a "common chamber into which urinary, intestinal and generative canals discharge." My definition: a snake or lizard's bum hole.
Egg tooth - a small "tooth"-like projection that most egg-born reptiles are born with to assist in breaking out of their egg. (Borneo Short-tailied Python with egg tooth)

Oviparous - egg laying.
Ovoviviparous - a reptile that has shelled eggs, but the eggs are retained internally until they hatch and they give birth to live young.
Viviparous - giving birth to live young.

Carapace - the top of the shell of a turtle which contains some 50 bones, covered by usually around 26 or so armor plates known as scutes, made of keratin. Soft shelled turtles and sea turtles don't have scutes they have a leathery skin covering instead - and a reduced number of bones.
Plastron - the underside of the shell of a turtle. It contains a dozen or so bones and a dozen or so scutes protecting them. Of course, the numbers can vary by species.

The numbers:
Sometimes you will see someone say "I have 1.1 ball pythons." Well how exactly does one get point one of a ball python? The numbers refer to the ratio of males.females so the above person would have a pair. Sometimes it is written as males.females.unknown so 1.1.2 for one male, one female and two unknown gender, etc.

Misc. terms:
sp - species
ssp - subspecies
svl - snout to vent. How lizards are typically measured. From the tip of their nose to their cloaca.
brumation - a fancy name for what most pepole would just consider to be hibernation. In the winter snakes go into dens and basically go into a state of near system shut down and sleep the cold away. In order to get many species to breed effectively, they need this cold cycle.
scenting - Scenting is a term used by reptile keepers who have fussy feeders, or a snake that normally eats, say, fish in the wild, but for ease of care, we would prefer to feed them rodents. A rodent is literally scented with fish - usually by rubbing the fish innards onto it. Then it is offered to the snake. Snakes often go into feeding mode immediately upon smelling food, so they 'capture' it first, and then think whether it is really food later. Quite often they just take down the rodent. As time goes on, you can slowly reduce the amount of scenting, until finally the snake is willing to take a rodent without it. This is especially helpful for some snakes, which have diets that include lizards or other snakes. Feeding snakes to your pet snake can become extremely expensive. It is much more cost effective, and easy to try and convert to a readily available food source like mice or rats. There is some discussion that changing snakes off of their natural diet can cause physical harm, but little actual research has been done to prove it, and most keepers I've discussed it with haven't had any issues to remark on except with the eastern hognose snake - which in the wild feeds exclusively on a diet of toads, and if converted to rodents, almost universally end up suffering from fatty liver disease and dying well before their expected life span.
feeding response - any reptile owner knows about this. Most reptiles, immediately upon smelling (or seeing) food items tend to get into an almost agitated or excited mode. Unfortunately, this often leads to owners that are not careful getting bitten. When considering some large snakes, or large monitor lizards - this is when they can be their most dangerous. Tongs and long tweezers are highly recommended for feeding.

Some fancy terms that aren't in common usage, but are applicable none-the-less:
Solenoglyphous - translated from the Greek meaning "pipe grooved", not very descriptive, but these are the traditional vipers. They have fangs that are positioned in the front of the jaw, and those fangs act just like hypodermic needles, being hollow - and a contraction of the jaw muscle squeezes venom from the bulb of the venom gland, and out through the fang, not unlike a fancy turkey baster. Often these fangs are hinged, and actually fold up into the roof of the mouth when not in use. They are also well hidden in gum tissue, to protect them, as they are actually quite fragile.
Proteroglyphous - translated from the Greek meaning "front grooved". This is the method that cobras have. The fangs are fixed in the front of the jaw (not hinged like vipers), and instead of being entirely hollow like hypodermic needles, they are actually folded over to form a channel. Usually the channel is entirely enclosed, so behaves much in the same way, but in some species (namely the spitting cobras) it is specially adapted to have an opening that allows them to eject venom from the front of the fang. The grooves are actually rifled like the barrel of a gun, which allows the venom to emerge in a stream instead of a spray, and gives them an incredible accuracy.
Opisthoglyphous - translated from the Greek meaning "back grooved". The fangs are actually set back in their jaw, and instead of being hollow, they just have a groove which runs from base to tip, that allows the venom to be channeled down it. These species often require hanging onto a victim and employing a chewing motion to get enough venom in to be effective. There are many species with enlarged rear fangs, including, but certainly not limited to, the hognose snakes, the cat-eye snakes, flying snakes, and vine snakes.

There are some species, like stiletto snakes, which defy the traditional characterization by "fang placement" and actually have fangs which can be turned to the left or right. Allowing them to deliver venom simply by twisting their head. Mark O'Shea, the tv herpetologist, found out the hard way when he tried to pick up a stiletto snake in southern Africa and had a very bad night after being envenomated.

As an addition to that bit... all snakes shed their teeth regularly (well, those that have teeth), including their venom delivering fangs. Usually while one set of fangs is in use, another set is slowly moving into position, and when the old set is worn out they simply fall out and the new set moves into place just like human baby teeth being replaced - only snakes do it throughout their lives. The shed teeth normally enter the digestive tract and can be found in the feces fully intact. Sometimes a fang can not be shed when a new one moves into place, leading to what almost seems like double set. Eventually though, the older fang is shed.

· Herp Nerd
1,116 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
When buying feeders (rats, mice, rabbits, and occasionally gerbils and hamsters, but other kinds of rodents are almost never sold as feeders) for snakes, generally they are sold in various sizes: Pink or pinkie (newborn, unfurred, eyes closed), fuzzy (slightly furred, often eyes still closed), hopper (eyes open, fully furred), adult (full grown), jumbo (often larger than a typical adult). Sometimes there's also a "small adult" grade.
F/T - frozen/thawed. The safest and preferred method of snake food. Reputable feeder suppliers breed specifically for this market, and cull using carbon dioxide, to avoid inhumane methods like freezing or messy and potentially unreliable, if done by someone that doesn't know exactly what they're doing, methods like cervical dislocation.
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