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rec.pets.herp Frequently Asked Questions (1 of 3)

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Archive-name: pets/herp-faq/part1
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	        An Introduction to rec.pets.herp
		 Part 1/3: About This Newsgroup
	       Bill East <>


This document is copyright 1995-1998 by Bill East, and may be redistributed
freely under many circumstances; the details are explained in Part 1 (section
3.1).  Some sections were written by other authors, who are also identified in
Part 1.

This document is provided as-is, with no expressed or implied warranty of
any kind.  Every effort has been made to make this FAQ an accurate and
comprehensive source of information; however, the maintainer offers no
guarantee that these efforts have been successful, and assumes no
responsibility for damages resulting from errors or omissions.

This document represents the understanding and opinion of the maintainer,
and, where possible, a consensus of posters to rec.pets.herp; it is not
endorsed by, and does not necessarily represent any position of, the
maintainer's employer or ISP.


Section 1: Introduction and Disclaimer

Welcome to rec.pets.herp!  This is a monthly informational posting that
answers some common questions and provides pointers to other sources of
information.  Aspiring posters to rec.pets.herp should read this document

You are not expected to know everything in this document cold before posting;
there won't be an exam.  However, many of the most commonly asked questions,
especially by new posters, are at least partially answered here.  Take some
time to look through it; your problem may already be solved!

This document is provided as-is, with no expressed or implied warranty of
any kind.  Every effort has been made to make this FAQ an accurate and
comprehensive source of information; however, the maintainer offers no
guarantee that these efforts have been successful, and assumes no
responsibility for damages resulting from errors or omissions.

This document represents the understanding and opinion of the maintainer,
and, where possible, a consensus of posters to rec.pets.herp; it is not
endorsed by, and does not necessarily represent any position of, the
maintainer's employer or ISP.


Section 2: Table of Contents

Part 1: About This Newsgroup

	1. Introduction and Disclaimer
	2. Table of Contents
	3. About this FAQ
	        <3.1>  Author
	        <3.2>  How to get the FAQ
	        <3.3>  Formatting and usage
	        <3.4>  Acknowledgements
	4. Generalities
	        <4.1>  What is rec.pets.herp?
	        <4.2>  What is
	        <4.3>  What is/isn't a herp?
	        <4.4>  What about tarantulas, scorpions, and so on?
	        <4.5>  What kind of questions are/aren't appropriate here?
	        <4.6>  What does CB stand for?
	        <4.7>  What does <some term> mean?
	        <4.8>  What do these numbers like "1.2" mean?
		<4.9>  What are those funny things in brackets in the Subject
		       lines of posts?

Part 2: Other Resources

	5. Other information resources
	        <5.1>  What other online resources exist?
	        <5.2>  What are some good offline resources?
	        <5.3>  How do I find a nearby herp society?
	        <5.4>  Where do I get information about iguanas?
	        <5.5>  Is there a care sheet for <whatever species>?
	        <5.6>  What zoos have good herp collections?

	6. Obtaining and identifying herps
	        <6.1>  Where can I get a <whatever species>?
	        <6.2>  How do I identify this creature in my yard?  Can I
			keep it?
	        <6.3>  I just bought a <whatever species>.  How do I take
			care of it?
	        <6.4>  Is it OK to order herps through the mail?  Over the net?

Part 3: Questions About Herps

	7. General herp care
	        <7.1>  My herp got away.  How can I find it?
	        <7.2>  Is there something wrong with using mealworms as food?
	        <7.3>  Is there something wrong with using live feeder rodents?
	        <7.4>  I can't keep my <whatever species>.  What do I do?
			Let it go?
	        <7.5>  Can't you get salmonella from reptiles?

	8. Choosing a herp
	        <8.1>  What's a good first herp?
	                <8.1a>  Snakes
	                <8.1b>  Lizards
	                <8.1c>  Turtles & Tortoises
	                <8.1d>  Frogs & Toads
	                <8.1e>  Salamanders & Newts
	                <8.1f>  Caecilians
	        <8.2> My kid wants a reptile; what should we get?


Section 3: About This FAQ

Subject: <3.1> Author Bill East. Copyright 1995-1998 by Bill East. This document may be redistributed freely, but commercial publication requires the consent of the author, and any modifications must be clearly indicated. Herpetological society documents (even if they are "commercial" in the sense of being paid for through membership dues) are specifically permitted to reprint any part of this document, with proper attribution. The section on first herps contains material contributed by many individuals. In particular, the section on starter lizards is a summary of material written by Melissa Kaplan; the paragraph on first turtles was written by David Kirkpatrick; and the section on first salamanders and caecilians was written by Stanton McCandlish.
Subject: <3.2> How to get the FAQ You're reading it, right? Save it. :-) The latest version of this FAQ will always be available at <> (as three files called part1, part2, and part3), and at <> (unless the maintainer changes, the present maintainer changes ISPs, or the maintainer's ISP makes a significant change to its Web server). The URL at MIT always contains the most recently posted version; the Concentric copy may include changes made since the last posting. The FAQ is auto-posted every 30 days to rec.pets.herp, rec.answers, and news.answers. It can also be obtained through a polite email request sent to Bill East <>. This is also the address to send mail to if you have comments or suggestions about the FAQ.
Subject: <3.3> Formatting and usage This FAQ is written in a "digest format", which is intended to facilitate searching for particular pieces of information. Each question begins with a line of hyphens ('-'), followed by its number and title as they appear in the table of contents. Many newsreaders allow you to jump from one question to the next by hitting ^G (control-G). To find question 3.3, search for the string "Subject: <3.3>" (without the quotation marks).
Subject: <3.4> Acknowledgements Many people have contributed to this FAQ. Contributions have come directly from Dave Beaty, Alta Brewer, Adam Britton, Liza Daly, Mark Ernst, Sirena Glade, Steve Grenard, Paul Hollander, Phil Hughes, Melissa Kaplan, David Kirkpatrick, Stanton McCandlish, Jean McGuire, Rod Mitchell, Jessica Mosher, Harrison Page, Chas C. Peterson, Rebecca Sobol, Mel Turner, and Colin Wilson, and indirectly from the innumerable people whose posts the author has read and learned from. Thanks are also due to the authors and maintainers of other FAQs and related documents, including but not limited to Don Baldwin, Tom Buchanan, Peter Donohue, Mike Pingleton, Michael Shannon, and Jennifer Swofford. A big hand for everyone. If you know someone on this list, buy them lunch. ============================================================================== Section 4: Generalities
Subject: <4.1> What is rec.pets.herp? rec.pets.herp is a newsgroup founded in October 1991 for discussion of various vivarium-dwelling animals, primarily reptiles and amphibians. News postings relating to its creation are available at <> and make pretty interesting reading. Here is the official charter of rec.pets.herp: This newsgroup is a forum for the discussion of vivarium-living animals as pets. The discussion will be limited to Reptiles, Amphibians and miscellaneous exotic animals, such as tarantulas. Mammals, Birds and Fish will not be discussed in this group. The existing group rec.pets is useful but is often inundated with postings concerned with the more usual types of pets. The new group will be a dedicated forum, where only the specified types of animal will be discussed. In other words, rec.pets.herp is a group for discussion of reptiles and amphibians as pets, along with assorted other vivarium-dwelling animals. The last is generally understood to mean terrestrial invertebrates---insects, tarantulas, scorpions, etc. The "pet" connection is sometimes tenuous. There have been long (and constructive) threads about the genetics of captive populations and their implications for reintroduction programs, for example. Because many keepers of pet herps are also breeders, or simply interested in the science of herpetology, such discussions are generally welcome. Discussions about raising animals as food items are common and condoned, though they may be counter to the letter of the charter (since many common food animals are mammals). This is partly because of the obvious relevance to herp keeping, but also because such discussions can be difficult to carry on in rec.pets; many rat keepers, for instance, are uncomfortable with the idea of rats as feeders, and some very unpleasant flame wars have emerged from obnoxious postings about feeders there. Keeping the feeder discussions in rec.pets.herp is really a win-win situation. In general, discussions of animal rights and other political matters are not suitable for rec.pets.herp, unless they involve herps specifically in an essential way. For instance, discussions of herp-related legislation are appropriate, but a thread about the alleged practice of kidnapping household pets for use as laboratory animals is not. This is doubly true since political discussions are often both volatile and heavily crossposted, leading to a large volume of posted material that is irrelevant to the group and difficult for readers to wade through. See also questions 4.3-4.5.
Subject: <4.2> What is More to the point, what *isn't* There are two herp newsgroups, this one and The latter is, as its name suggests, about the science of herpetology. It typically features discussions on field techniques, taxonomy, and other subjects of interest to the (scientific) herpetological community. Many rec.pets.herp readers find it interesting to follow as well, and occasionally one of us will have a question that's better posted there. For instance, if you're curious about the recent taxonomic revision of the python family, is a good place to ask for information. However, is *not* an appropriate place to ask about pet keeping. Historically, has had problems with postings that really belong in rec.pets.herp. "My ball python won't eat" is very much a rec.pets.herp subject, for example, and the folks have gotten understandably tired of it.
Subject: <4.3> What is/isn't a herp? The charter says "reptiles, amphibians, and other exotic vivarium pets", but the word "herp" usually means "reptile or amphibian". The world's living reptiles are divided into six groups: Snakes, lizards, chelonians (turtles and tortoises), crocodilians, the tuatara (a single lizardlike species from New Zealand), and amphisbaenians ("worm lizards"). The amphibians consist of anurans (frogs and toads), caudates (newts and salamanders), and caecilians (wormlike aquatic and burrowing amphibians, much less known than their cousins). Other exotic pets, like hedgehogs and sugar gliders, are not herps and are not within the subjects covered by rec.pets.herp. However, the charter of the group explicitly embraces discussions on some vivarium-dwelling creatures that are not strictly herps (see question 4.4, below), as well as the care and breeding of feeder animals.
Subject: <4.4> What about tarantulas, scorpions, and so on? Spiders, scorpions, and similar terrestrial invertebrates are explicitly included in the rec.pets.herp charter. The most common topics in this realm are tarantulas and scorpions, but other spiders and millipedes have been discussed on occasion. Once in a while, a small flame war erupts because someone posts a question about a tarantula, and someone else feels constrained to shout "Tarantulas aren't herps!" The shouters in this scenario are referred to the charter.
Subject: <4.5> What kind of questions are/aren't appropriate here? Most questions that seem appropriate are---i.e., pretty much any question about keeping herps is OK. Certain technical questions may be better directed to, or crossposted (but if you do crosspost, please set followups to whichever group is more appropriate---if you don't know what this means, you definitely shouldn't crosspost). Posted images are *never* appropriate in rec.pets.herp, or, in general, in any non-binary newsgroup. If you want to distribute a picture of your favorite tree frog, or a great snapshot from the field, or whatever, that's fine; but put the image on a WWW page, or post it to the newsgroup, and just put a brief pointer in rec.pets.herp directing people to the image. (The WWW approach is better than the post to a.b.p.a., as many more people have Web access than get the binaries newsgroups, and no arcane decoding process is required to view a Web page.) The consensus is that commercial postings are acceptable, as long as they are not invasive (multiple posts with screaming subject lines are Not OK) and on- topic (no phone sex ads). There is a well-established tradition of individuals offering animals for sale through the newsgroup, and at least one commercial herp supply dealer posts regularly. Out of politeness, many people offering animals and items for sale state so clearly in the Subject line of their posting: those who are not interested in purchasing can then save time by not downloading / reading the posts. An example might be: "FS: Snow Corns." However, large stocklists and other lengthy bodies of commercial information should be deposited on a WWW page or made available for FTP, with only a pointer posted to the group. If you run a newsletter or organization that you think herpers should be made aware of on a regular basis, a brief monthly posting is much more appropriate than a daily or even weekly one.
Subject: <4.6> What does CB stand for? Either "captive-bred" or "captive-born"; the former meaning is probably more common. The issue is this: Herps offered for sale may have been collected from the wild, or they may have been hatched/born in captivity. (There are very strong reasons to prefer to purchase the latter kind, but that's not the subject of this question.) An animal that was conceived and born in captivity is said to be captive-*bred*. If, however, a female herp is imported from the wild and lays eggs shortly thereafter (having done her actual breeding before being captured), the offspring are captive-*born*. Animals that are "merely" captive-born are, in a sense, taken from the wild population (though most of them probably would not have survived to adulthood in the wild), but they enjoy most of the same health benefits that accrue to captive-bred individuals. When breeders offer "CB" animals for sale, they *usually* mean captive-bred. This is by no means certain, however, especially with certain species that are rarely bred in captivity. If you're buying a CB animal from a breeder, and you have strong feelings against buying a captive-born animal, go ahead and ask. Note that pet stores, especially corporate chain stores, sometimes have no idea of their animals' origins, and once in a while they will just make up an answer if you ask! (I figured this out when a guy told me that a Surinam toad---a South American species---had been imported from Africa...)
Subject: <4.7> What does <some term> mean? The following are some terms that have been known to confuse people. This list is by no means complete or comprehensive. Amelanistic: "Albino" in the conventional sense; lacking all black pigment. This is a widespread mutation in several species. Amelanistic animals are often red or yellowish, instead of white like albino mammals; this is because amelanism does not affect the red and yellow pigments, or indeed any pigments other than melanin. Anerythristic: "Black albino"; lacking red pigment. Anerythristic animals are typically black and white. This is a common mutation in corn snakes, and has also emerged in several other snake species. Anuran: A frog or toad. (There is no tightly defined distinction, though members of the genus _Rana_ are sometimes called "true frogs" and members of the genus _Bufo_ "true toads".) Axanthic: Lacking yellow pigment. Axanthism produces a "black albino" effect in certain species whose dominant pigments are yellow. Axolotl: A species of salamander (_Ambystoma mexicanum_) which normally does not metamorphose into a terrestrial form, instead remaining in an aquatic larval stage throughout its life. Axolotls were formerly thought to be unmetamorphosed tiger salamanders (_Ambystoma tigrinum_), and some older books describe them as such. Boid: A boa or python. (Two syllables, accent on the first, with a long 'o'; this word is derived from "boa".) Brumation: A term intended to describe "hibernation" in reptiles and other cold-blooded animals. The point of having two terms is simply that hibernation is a complex process involving some regulation of body temperature, whereas brumation is a simpler general slowing of all metabolic processes. The word is a fairly recent coinage (1965, in a paper by Mayhew), and it is reported to be falling out of usage among academic herpetologists. It's probably fine to just say "hibernation". Caecilian: A member of the order Gymnophiona (formerly Apoda), an order of elongated, eellike or wormlike amphibians. The most familiar is the "rubber eel", sometimes sold in aquarium stores. Caudal: Pertaining to the tail. Caudata: The order of amphibians comprising salamanders and newts. Colubrid: A member of the "typical snake" family: king snakes, rat snakes, corn snakes, garter snakes, and in general most of the snakes that readers outside Australia encounter frequently. Crepuscular: Active at dawn and dusk. This describes many herps, especially snakes. Elapid: A member of a large family of venomous snakes with fangs set in the rear of their mouths, including cobras, coral snakes, a majority of Australian snakes, and many more. Fossorial: Burrowing. Gravid: The right word to use instead of "pregnant" when you're talking about eggs. Note that all reptiles reproduce via eggs; if they give live birth, it's because the eggs hatch internally. In consequence, there is no such thing as a pregnant reptile; the word is always "gravid". (However, rumor holds that some of the more evolutionarily advanced snakes have been found to have primitive placentas, which would actually make the term "pregnant" more appropriate.) Herp/Herptile: Generic terms for reptiles and amphibians; see question 4.3. The word "herptile" is a fairly recent coinage with no real etymology, and some people object to it (the phrase "linguistic abomination" has been used). Recently the use of "herpetofauna" has been suggested as a more scientific term - but within the group "herptile" is a perfectly understandable and acceptable term. Heterozygous: A proper definition of this term requires a quick primer in genetics, which is definitely beyond the scope of this FAQ. Briefly, saying that an animal is "heterozygous for amelanism" means that it carries the gene that causes amelanism, and can pass that gene on to its offspring, but it is not itself amelanistic (having inherited a "normal" gene that suppresses the amelanistic gene). Pipping: The stage in the hatching process in which a hatching snake makes a preliminary slit in the eggshell with its egg tooth. The term has also been used to describe the process of making an artificial slit in the egg to help the hatchling emerge (this practice is widely discouraged except in unusual circumstances). Ranid: One of the "true frogs" of the genus _Rana_. The genus includes the majority of the hoppy, bank-dwelling animals that most of us think of as typical frogs, but excludes tree frogs, toads, and many others. Salienta: An obsolete name for the order Anura (frogs and toads). STV: Snout-to-vent (length). This is the usual way to measure an amphibian or lizard (the point is that it's inconvenient and somewhat misleading to include the legs of a frog or the tail of a lizard or salamander in its length). Urodela: An obsolete name for the order Caudata (salamanders and newts). Vent: The cloacal opening (location of the urinary and genital organs), especially on a snake's belly. In snakes and caecilians, the vent is the official boundary between body and tail. (Actually, this is equally true of lizards and limbed amphibians, which, however, usually have other indicators as well---i.e., legs!) Viperid: A member of the stereotypical family of venomous snakes, including rattlesnakes and almost anything with "viper" in its name. Viperids have large fangs mounted in the front of the mouth and have a tendency to be stocky snakes with a certain stereotypical head shape (however, it's not safe, of course, to decide that a snake isn't venomous because "it doesn't have a viper head").
Subject: <4.8> What do these numbers like "1.2" mean? In posts and price lists, it's not uncommon to see people say something about "1.2 California kingsnakes" or "8.2.32 African clawed frogs". This is a way of concisely specifying the sexes of the animals; the first example means one male Cal king and two females, and the second means eight male frogs, two females, and 32 whose sex is not known.
Subject: <4.9> What are those funny things in brackets in the Subject lines of posts? Some posts have subjects with letters in brackets, like [A] Question on Flipplezorb's tree frogs or [I] My iguana sleeps hanging by his tail! Is this normal? The letters are "subject tags", intended to indicate the general topic of the post. The generally recognized tags are as follows: [I] - iguanas [L] - other lizards [S] - snakes [T] - turtles/tortoises [A] - amphibians [V] - venomous herps [M] - miscellaneous You're encouraged to use them, as they help readers with specific interests to organize the contents of the group and read only the posts on subjects they're interested in. ==============================================================================

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