And Now For The Good Part: Hatching Oustalet’s Chameleons, Part 2

Where were we, now? Ah, yes. I left you with this.

The chameleon breaks out of the end of its egg. See that pink bit? That's its TONGUE! It laps water before it hatches.

The chameleon breaks out of the end of its egg. See that pink bit? That’s its TONGUE! It laps water before it hatches.

After a ten month incubation, these Oustalet’s Chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti) eggs began to hatch. A teaser image, I know. I have taken hundreds of shots of these little guys, and there were just too many to share in a single blog post. Please accept my apology. To be fair, I didn’t put you through anything I didn’t experience myself. It was several days after I saw the tongue before I saw the baby. Are you ready? Hang onto your hat.  Click any of the images to enlarge. There’s more detail when the pictures are full-sized.

The hatchlings rest in their egg for what feels like a long time.  Some of the eggs showed tears in the end for several days before their inhabitants finally emerged. All the juveniles seemed to end with one final step before hatching: sleeping.

Such hard work for a little guy!

Such hard work for a little guy!

I took many photographs of the babies asleep in their eggs. Hatching is hard work. Imagine getting caught in the rain and having to peel off your skinny jeans. That are a size too small. Without using your hands. It’s exhausting. In addition to resting, the hatchlings were also absorbing the remainder of their yolk.

Some of the babies took right off after a quick nap, while others slept in their egg for over 12 hours. Note the color change between the first set of images. The lighter color seems to indicate the hatchling is sleeping. When the baby is actively working to emerge, the color shifts to brown. The brown coloration is similar to the dark, dark grey they turn when they are stressed, possibly indicating that hatching is a stressful experience. It’s hard to say for sure, though, because sometimes the act of observing something changes what is being observed.

And then… Ta-da!

That's my thumb. Yeah, he's tiny. The little gold flecks are bits of vermiculite, the medium we prefer for incubating eggs.

That’s my thumb. Yeah, he’s tiny. The little gold flecks are bits of vermiculite, the medium we prefer for incubating eggs.

 

 

A couple of days after hatching. Note the white spots on the side.

A couple of days after hatching. Note the white spots on the side. The grey coloration appears to be their default setting. How tiny is this animal? It’s holding onto a bit of honeysuckle.

These animals are beautifully camouflaged. They are nearly indistinguishable from the branches.

These animals are beautifully camouflaged. They are nearly indistinguishable from the branches.

I can’t stop taking pictures. They sit across from my desk, so my lunch hour is usually spent snapping interesting poses. Can you blame me? Could you eat lunch or read a book when a little guy is doing this?

Small chameleon goes Full Yoda - "Take my picture, you will.."

Small chameleon goes Full Yoda – “Take my picture, you will..”

These chameleons are growing well. They are fed at least once a day on tiny crickets and fruit flies. I mist them a couple of times a day, as well. Because they are completely arboreal, they don’t recognize standing water as something to drink. They lap water droplets when it rains, so I make sure to “rain” on them often. Juveniles tend to dehydrate easily.

Most of these babies will eventually find their way to homes in other zoos. Once we get a little size on them and they can handle travel, they will go out and help create a healthy captive population, which will help take pressure off of wild populations. In the meantime, I’ll have my camera handy, and I do like to share.

Celi has hatched some things, too. Go pay her a visit!

Must See To Appreciate!

This week, the zoo welcomed an amazing new addition with the hatching of a Spiny hill turtle. These turtles are critically endangered in the wild, and this hatchling has an incredible story. Its parents were illegally removed from the wild for human consumption and were stuffed in foam crates, along with hundreds of other turtles for export. Before customs could confiscate them, many of the crates collapsed, suffocating the animals inside. The turtles that survived the ordeal were sent to appropriate facilities for rehabilitation. My zoo received five spiny hill turtles, and were the first facility to successfully breed any of the animals from this confiscation. Since then, several more babies have made their appearance.

Heosemys spinosa, the spiny hill turtle. It will spend a few days on damp paper towels as its umbilicus closes. Then it will be ready to go for a swim.

It looks enormous, doesn’t it? Here’s a not-so-close-up:

It's not as big as it looks, is it?

So here’s the really amazing part. Brad, the Lead Keeper, took some measurements.

Every neonate is weighed and measured.

This baby has a maximum carapace (shell) length and width of 63mm. That’s about 2 1/2 inches. Hang onto your hat. The egg shell itself measured a mere 36mm.  You read that right. The baby is almost twice as wide as the egg it was living in. How is that even possible? Like this:

The curve of the carapace (top shell) is incredible, but check out the wrinkles in the plastron (bottom shell)! I love how it has its little nose pulled in. Its face reminds me of Homer Simpson. And those bumpy things on either side are its legs.

And I thought we were cramped when we lived in 900sq ft with two kids!

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special thanks to sj for creating the watermark.