Feeding habits of the scaly and the shelled
Hi y’all! This is Sara from the Herpetology Department. Today I’m going to talk to y’all about one of my favorite topics: food! I usually eat two to three times a day, and I’m guessing many of you are the same! This is because, thanks to our metabolism, most humans get hungry about that often. But could you imagine only eating two to three times a week? What about once every two weeks? Once a month? That probably sounds pretty strange to you, but for reptiles and amphibians, those meal schedules are completely normal!
Most of the frogs, toads, lizards, turtles, tortoises and crocodilians here at Zoo Atlanta eat two to three times a week, rather than two to three times a day like we do. This works for them because their metabolisms are much, much slower than ours! Within that two to three times a week window, there is a little bit of flexibility in that meal schedule as well, depending on the animal itself as well as on the time of year. For instance, some of the things we as herpetology keepers consider when determining how often we should feed an animal are:
• Is the animal old or young?
• Is the animal underweight or overweight?
• Is it breeding season, or is this animal going through a dormancy period?
• Is the animal developing eggs?
All of these variables and more are taken into consideration when determining a feeding schedule for an animal. I put more thought into the animals’ meal schedules than into my own!
I’m sure by now everyone has noticed what group of Zoo Atlanta’s scaly residents was left out of the two to three times a week meal schedule … the snakes! Most of the snakes who call Zoo Atlanta home eat only once every two weeks. Some of our larger snakes, such as the reticulated python and the green anacondas, only eat once a month! Believe it or not, once a month is actually quite frequent by large snake standards. In the wild, it’s not uncommon for these animals to go several months, without eating and some rattlesnakes, like timber rattlesnakes in more northern climates, may only eat three to four times a year! As you can imagine, with a meal schedule like that, the odds of your seeing a snake eat every time you come to Zoo Atlanta are relatively low. So if you do happen to see one of our slithery friends enjoying a meal during your visit, know that not every guest gets as lucky as you, and take advantage of the opportunity!
Keeper I, Herpetology