Evolution of a Lizard Room, Part VIII: Egg Incubation

Incubating eggs

Incubating eggs

As Dan Warner mentioned in a recent post, moisture availability is extremely important to the development and survival of anole embryos. Throughout our time breeding anoles in the lab, we have experimented with different methods of incubating eggs, including different substrates (potting soil, a mixture of soil and vermiculite, and just vermiculite), differing proportions of water and vermiculite, and supplementing substrate with water throughout incubation. We have now settled on a recipe that seems to minimize death, mould, and desiccation in our Anolis distichus eggs.

We currently start by mixing a recipe that combines 220g of vermiculite with 380g of water. According to a water potential curve for vermiculite, this mixture has a water potential of -150kPa. We then put 130g of the mix into clear small deli cups which have pre-punched holes on the side for ventilation. The clear cups make it easy to quickly monitor eggs and to spot new hatchlings. We store these cups in our lizard room at a temperature of about 29C.  As eggs get older they are gradually rotated closer to a small fan that is set on a timer to run 10 mins twice daily to increase airflow. We’ve found that the recipe we’re using does not require addition of more water during incubation.

I’ve heard and read about many different ways that people are treating anole eggs and would love if AA readers shared how they take care of their anole eggs!

About Julienne Ng

I study the evolution of color signals. My PhD at the University of Rochester focused on the evolution of dewlap diversity in Anolis distichus. I am currently a postdoc at the University of Colorado Boulder studying the evolution of flower color.

5 thoughts on “Evolution of a Lizard Room, Part VIII: Egg Incubation

  1. We incubate ours in Perlite. We use weight to determine 80% water to Perlite ratio. So for 100g of Perlite, there would be 80g water in the mix. We store these eggs in a cabinet in our lizard room and the cabinet temp stays about 76-79F. We have found that we never have to add moisture and have strong success with this set up for our lizards which can incubate up to 5 months (A. ricordi). The problem we have faced with perlite is that the powdery parts of the mix can get into lizards eyes upon hatching, so the finest particles should be sifted out for the fresh eggs. Our deli cups have only one hole in the lid punched with a tool about the width of a thumb tac. We almost never have problems with mold unless the egg was never fertilized, but if we see mold, we sprinkle a little bit of coco-peat on top of the moldy parts or the entire egg, and this increases the acidity just enough to rid us of mold without damaging the egg inside.

    1. William, we have had similar problems with small vermiculite particles getting into the eyes of our distichus hatchlings. Next breeding season I will be sure to give sifting a try. We’ll also have to try out coco-peat on the ones that start to show mold, although mold has become a relatively minor problem since Julienne optimized the vermiculite to water ratio.

  2. I have had a personal struggle with this exact issue over the years. I have now tried to breed about 20 different species in the lab and have had great success with about 15 of them. I am convinced that some species will successfully hatch from a wide range of incubation conditions while others are much more finicky. For example, I have had A. sagrei eggs hatch from both over saturated and extremely dry petri dishes and from 25 to 32 degrees. However, I have been unable to get a single A .roquet to eggs hatch in the lab after trying several different conditions, though I have only had about six to work with over the last year. At the end of the day I think that there is a combination of species-specific voodoo and TLC necessary for many of the species we are interested in and that some controlled experiments to find the minimum and maximum conditions of the most often used species would greatly benefit the growing number of labs rearing anoles.

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