Lesson Session – Cold Blooded

Cold blooded

In this fun experiment, students learn what it means to be ectothermic (exothermic) or cold blooded.

Grades: 1-6

Background:

Being a reptile is hard work.

Humans are warm blooded (or endothermic.)   Our body temperature is at a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees, unless we are sick and have a fever.  We can wear clothing and shiver to raise our body temperature or sweat to cool our bodies.thermometer

Reptiles are cold blooded (or ectothermic)  and they cannot control their body temperature by wearing clothes or sweating.  Reptile body temperatures change according to the temperature of their surroundings. If it is 75 degrees outside, a snake will be 75 degrees inside its body. If it is 105 degrees outside, the reptile with be 105 degrees inside its body. Reptiles have a body temperature range that they must be at in order to survive.

Do you see many reptiles outside during the winter? Not if you live where it gets cold!  Reptiles have to hibernate during cold winters because it is too cold outside for their bodies to work properly. They cannot eat or move around when it is cold outside, so they go in to a deep sleep called hibernation.

During the warmer months of the year, a reptile has to keep within the temperature range it needs to survive. Reptiles must find a warm places to sit when they are cold, and find cooler places when they are hot. Have you ever stood in the sun when you are cold or moved to the shade when you are hot? That is what a reptile does all day.  Different species of reptiles have different temperature range requirements.

Set-up:

For this experiment you will need a number of thermometers. It is best for the students to split up into groups sharing a thermometer. To make things really fun, you can decorate each thermometer by gluing it to a picture of a reptile from a magazine glued to a note card or other heavy card stock.

About an hour before class, find an area that has many different features like rocks, grass, dirt, trees, and bushes. Find the lowest temperature in the area by putting thermometers in the shady areas. Then find areas with the highest temperature found on asphalt, rocks, or other hot surfaces in the sun.

Lay the thermometer down on an object – just like a reptile.   Wait at least two minutes before taking a reading.

Next, set up temperature ranges. They should be in five degree increments started at five degrees below your lowest recorded temperature and ending at five degrees above your highest recorded temperature.

Assign temperature ranges to the thermometer reptiles. If there are more temperature ranges than reptiles, space out the temperature ranges you assign.

Activity:

Pass out the reptile thermometers along with its assigned temperature range. Give the children ten minutes or so to find the best place to lay their thermometer reptile so that the thermometer reads within its assigned range. Remember it takes a minute for the thermometer to give a proper reading and it must be actually on something, reptiles cannot hover in the air.

Encourage the children to be creative and experiment where they put the thermometers. You may even have the children write down where they place the thermometer and what its reading is. Some students will not be able to find a spot that will keep the thermometer within their range. Others may have to keep moving their reptile thermometer to stay within their assigned range, just like a real reptile!

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Closure:

After ten minutes or whatever time limit you decide, have the children discuss the activity.

How do you think a reptile’s day would be different than a humans? What are advantages to being ectothermic? What are the disadvantages?

Creature Feature – American Bullfrog

American Bullfrog

Lithobates catesbeianus

bullfrogpaversReptiles Alive Name: Jeremiah & Boom Boom

Hissstory: Both Boom Boom and Jeremiah were rescued from a grocery store that was selling live frogs as food.

RA Diet: Our bullfrogs eat meal worms, crickets, earthworms, roaches, and dead mice.

Natural Diet: Bullfrogs eat insects, minnows, and crayfish. They are also known to eat snakes, other frogs and even birds, mice, and baby alligators!

Range: These big frogs are native to the eastern and central United States, but they have been introduced all over the world.  Bullfrogs are native to the Washington DC area.

Habitat: Bullfrogs live in almost any aquatic environment including: ponds, lakes, swamps, and slow moving rivers.

Size: They can grow to 3.5-6 inches the record length 8 inches (this measurement does not include the legs.)

Lifespan: Bullfrogs can live up to 20 years.

Reproduction: Bullfrogs breed from May to July. You can hear the male bullfrogs calling at night with a loud, deep BaaaaROOOOOM making them sound a bit like a cow. Listen for them in warm weather, especially after rain.  Females may lay up to 25,000 eggs in one night! Large tadpoles hatch from big jelly like eggs. They can take over 2 years to transform into frogs (a long time for a frog).

Conservation Issues: Introduced populations of bullfrogs in the western United States are  eating native frogs and out-competing them for habitat.  This is one reason why it is very important to never release animals where they don’t belong.

Cool Facts: The bullfrog is the largest frog in North America – and one of the biggest frogs in the world. These big frogs can really jump, often 5 to 6 feet in one leap!

Critter Question: What is the difference between a crocodile and an alligator?

We get a lot of questions about reptiles at our shows.  One frequently asked question is how to tell the difference between crocodiles and alligators.

Crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and gavials all belong to the same order of reptiles, the Crocodilia.  There are around 23 species of living crocodilians in the world today (depending on what herpetologist you talk to)  that are divided into 3 families:  the alligators and caimans (Alligatoridae); the crocodiles (Crocodylidae); and the gavials (Gavialidae.)

gatorsmilecutouthead

All crocodilians share many of the same characteristics such as heavily armored scales called osteoderms, long muscular jaws filled with sharp, conical teeth, 4 limbs, and a long, muscular tail.

Some of the differences between alligators and crocodiles are:

1.  Size: Alligators are smaller than most species of crocodiles.  The largest alligators can grow to around 12 feet long and weigh around 500 pounds.  The largest crocodiles can grow to almost 20 feet long and can weith over 1,000 pounds!!

2. Color: Alligators are usually black as adults and black with yellow bands as juveniles.  Crocodiles are typically tan, gray, or green.

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3.  Range: Alligators are the only crocodilians to live in temperate areas of the world.  Chinese alligators live in the warmer, temperate parts of China and American Alligators live in the southeastern part of the United States from eastern North Carolina south through Florida and west into eastern Texas.  Crocodiles live in tropical parts of the world.

4.  Teeth: When alligators close their mouths, you can still see teeth pointing down from the top jaw.  When crocodiles close their mouths, you can see teeth sticking down and up from both the top and lower jaws.  So, crocodiles have a “toothier” smile.

5.  Head shape: Many people say that alligators have a more rounded snout shape and crocodiles have a more pointed head shape, but of course there are always exceptions to this rule.

Sssseee you later alligators!

Creature Feature: Uromastyx

Uromastyx

Uromastyx maliensis

Reptiles Alive Name: “Mali”

Hissstory: Mali was donated to us by former RA staff person Jennifer Rafter in 1999.uromstyx8

RA Diet: Greens, vegetables, and zoo herbivore lizard food.

Natural Diet: Greens, grasses, flowers, seeds, and occasional insects.

Range: Northern Africa

Habitat: Rocky deserts.

Size: Can grow to 15 – 17 inches.

Lifespan: 20+ years

Reproduction: Females lay about 15 eggs that will hatch in 60-70 days.

Conservation Issues: Captive breeding has proven difficult for this lizard, most uromastyx in the pet trade are wild caught.  Many people still capture this lizard for food throughout its range.

Cool Facts: These lizards sleep in their burrows with their spiny tails closest to the opening.  If a predator gets too close, the Uromastyx will whip its spiny tail in defense.

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