Sunday, May 31, 2009

And she lays TWENTY-THREE eggs!

Yes, you heard me right. Our little female veiled chameleon laid TWENTY-THREE eggs!!!

About 11:30 am, she began digging a tunnel in a five-gallon planting pot filled with wet sand. She dug deep enough that eventually we couldn't see her. And it was down here, all alone in the dark and the damp, that she laid and then buried 23 eggs.

At 8:30 pm, nine hours after starting the tunnel, our brave and tired little mother finished smoothing out the dirt in the pot. She did such a good job that you couldn't tell anything, much less her precious eggs, were buried there.

Child #2 sprayed her with water because she looked a little dehydrated. You can see the water droplets on her skin. She then climbed up the branch, gobbled a couple of crickets and parked herself under the heat lamp. She lapped water from the dripper off and on.

Here are our incubation supplies. We removed the bucket with the eggs. There are a few plastic deli-like containers with air holes around the sides. We filled these containers with 3/4 inch of damp (because we sprayed it with bottled water) vermiculite (soil-like stuff).

Here's a cluster of half-buried eggs. I set a penny next to them to give you a sense of size. Child #2 removed two mixing bowls full of sand before Child #4 spotted the first egg. The chameleon dug down deep before she began laying.

Child's #2 is holding an egg. He lightly dotted each egg with a Sharpie before removing it from the sand. He wanted to place the egg in the exact same position in the vermiculite. Rotating/flipping a veiled chameleon egg can lead to the embryo drowning in the liquid inside the egg.

This is our $59 incubator. We've set the temperature at about 80 degrees fahrenheit. This temp should result in an incubation period of about 170 days (shorter than with a lower temp) and active hatchlings with a good appetite. For veiled chameleons, gender is GSD (genetic set determination, meaning gender was set at the time of conception) and not TSD (temperature-dependent sex determination where certain incubation temperatures produce females and certain temps product males). Crocodiles, for example, are TSD.

And now we wait, the eggs safe and warm and hydrated (we'll have to keep them moist for the next several months), to see if the eggs hatch. There's a chance these eggs weren't fertilized, but were a test-run for her. Yikes.

And what was the male chameleon doing during the female's whole ordeal? Sunning himself under the lamp and chasing down the odd cricket. No tidying up of the cage, no arranging for a week's worth of meals, no decorating the babies' room. :)

All in all, this veiled chameleon experience has been a fun one!

sources:
http://www.chameleonnews.com/?page=article&id=119
http://www.biol.vt.edu/faculty/andrews/And_JEZ08.pdf

33 comments:

laughingwolf said...

what does mama do next, barrie?

Sarah Laurence said...

This was absolutely fascinating. Take more good photos and turn this into a middle reader book on chameleons.

I’m especially impressed that Mama Chameleon waited until you met your deadline before working towards hers. Who says lizards are cold blooded?

David Cranmer said...

The male chameleon sounds a lot like many human males.

Emily said...

Wow! I didn't know the process could be so difficult. Have fun with the new babies (: I hope the eggs were fertilized!

Beth said...

I am very, very impressed - with the female's work and with all your efforts. Not so impressed with the male chameleon...

doggybloggy said...

how totally cool - I cant wait to see the process...

Amy said...

wow that is sooo cool!! I've always wanted a pet reptile growing up, there's just something about them that I find fascinating. This whole experience will be great for your children and I can't wait to see more pics :)

debra said...

This is really exciting, Barrie! what a great experience for all of you.

Lady Glamis said...

Wow! What fun! I certainly hope they were fertilized. Heavens, that's a lot of work not to be! Keep us posted. Especially on that typical male, hehehe.

:D

Teresa said...

Great post, Barrie!! This is really interesting. I hope all your chameleons hatch and that the kids don't get too attached to the babies before you can sell them to the pet shop. I don't think you really want 25 chameleons in your wonderful chameleon habitat!

beckylevine said...

This is just the coolest thing. I would never have the patience for this, but I'm loving following it all on your blog!

Charles Gramlich said...

That's pretty cool. I enjoyed this update on Chameleon motherhood. I love hearing this kind of stuff. Neat incubator.

Travis Erwin said...

Very cool. I'm eager to see how things turn out.

beth said...

WOW!!! This is so cool--and what an awesome experience for the kids to see/be a part of!

Marty said...

Wow this is a great post on a fascinating creature. But what more did you expect out of the male. :P

kaye said...

how interesting--I'll be watching the progress.

gabe said...

One just never knows what's going on in that Summy world. 16 eggs, eh? Interesting.

JaneyV said...

Oh after such a marathon effort I hope there are little chameleons in 170 days. Will Mama C miss the bucket? or does she not care once the digging and laying is done?

preTzel said...

I'm sure glad I didn't have to dig and tunnel to give birth to my babies! I might have suffocated. I kind of like that 170 days of incubation *after* birth though. :)

Sheri said...

What will you do when/if all babies hatch??? Very cool! Thanks for the science lesson. And your 16 year old really impressed me too with his want and desire to learn and be prepared. He does the human male species proud!

Bina said...

That is so freaking cool! I wish I had a mother like you when I was little. I would have LOVED to do something like this!!!!

So what will you do if there ARE babies? How long do you keep them before you sell them or whatever?

I can't wait to see how this ends up!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I'm exhausted by the very idea of 20 babies all at once!

Chantal said...

WOW! very cool!

Barrie said...

Janey V: The mother thinks her job is done now! She doesn't even seem perturbed by the disappearance of the "birthing bucket"!

Barrie said...

Sherri and Bina: Child #2 plans to sell the babies to a local pet shop that specializes in reptiles. I think they pay about $25/baby. Which sounds like a lot, but it nothing if you consider the cost of crickets and worms and an incubator and cage and.... Still...it's so much fun! I'm not sure how long we hang onto the babies before selling them. A month is my guess.

Barbara Martin said...

Barrie, this has been so nicely educational for me. What fun you're having! You might wait more than a month to see how the little ones develop. I expect there is some form of 'soft' food to feed the hatchlings with, just like chicks get regurgitated food from their mothers.

Michele said...

Wow, how cool is that?! I bet your children were so excited when it all started happening, and for them to be a part of it... that's neat.

I didn't realize you could buy incubators like that...sure would've made last year's science fair project easier! LOL

:)

Barrie said...

Barbara: pinhead crickets. And you can't buy them that young at any old pet shop. Oh no, we have to travel afield to get them.

Barrie said...

Michele: now I want to know what last year's science project was!

Angela said...

Wow if all of them hatch you will have a lot bigger project on hand.

Oh and I was wondering if you found out if your book was on CD yet or if it was going to be.

Smiles

Miss Chevious said...

23?! really? that's oddly scary for some reason. :)

Solvang Sherrie said...

Wow! I wonder if they'll all hatch at the same time? Good thing it's summer!

Anonymous said...

That's a pretty cool thing to witness... a reptile laying eggs. However, have you ever tried candling the eggs? That will tell you immediately if they are fertile or infertile. That's how I check my Chameleon eggs and Bearded Dragon eggs. If they're not fertile, it's basically a waste of time. But it's still awesome to witness! But, there is nothing cuter than a baby Cham or Beardie!