While Anolis distichus may have plenty of options for where to lay eggs in the field, we needed to do a bit of experimentation before landing on a good place for them to lay their eggs in the laboratory environment. Other anole facilities tend to allow their lizards to lay eggs in the soil of potted plants, and we originally had our lizards laying in the soil substrate of their cages. However, eggs that spend time in soil tend to desiccate quickly, sometimes even before they’re discovered. Given that we knew our production would be limited, we wanted to avoid this risk during our breeding experiments. We arrived at a solution that is a combination of breakfast and gardening: yogurt cups filled with moist vermiculite.
Very few steps are necessary to make such a wonderful egg laying vessel. First, we made two anole-size holes in the yogurt cup: one hole on the side a little above half-way up the body of the container and a second in the lid. We generally made these holes using a soldering gun to melt the plastic. The two holes allow the lizards easy access to the inside of the container to lay their eggs.
Inside the yogurt cup, we provide a few hefty handfuls of damp vermiculite. This substance is often used by gardeners to increase the moisture content of their soil. A five cubic-foot bag of vermiculite is shockingly lightweight, but don’t be fooled–a handful of vermiculite can hold a remarkable amount of water. Vermiculite also retains that water for a long time, meaning that eggs laid in it have a relatively stable, humid environment.
Since adopting the yogurt cup and vermiculite method, we have seen a dramatic decrease in egg desiccation. We still occasionally find an egg laid in the soil, but the lizards overwhelmingly prefer to use the yogurt cup environment for laying their eggs (and as a cozy hide-out). In addition the implementation of the cups themselves, we also have a policy of weekly yogurt cup egg-checks, where eggs are removed for incubation (see Evolution of a Lizard Room Part VIII: Egg Incubation).