In a recent post on marking methods for field studies, Yoel made mention of the technique we use here in the lab: toe clipping. It is true, as Yoel stated, that this is not an ideal method for lizards in field studies due to the difficulty of identifying the numbers from afar and the chance loss of toes in a rough lizard life. However, for the purposes of the lab, toe clipping has proven to be an easy and effective method of identification. After looking into a few schemes used by other researchers, I settled on a pattern that allows for numbers 0-1999 and involves clipping at most two toes on each foot. With such high egg production over the past year in the lab, it is looking like the next round of breeding will require an adjustment to allow for numbers 0-9999, but the original scheme is serving its purpose for the moment.
Use of the toe clipping method has allowed us to give each new egg a unique identifier and to subsequently house multiple animals in a single cage. It doesn’t require purchasing any special equipment (all you need is a good pair of tiny lab scissors), it doesn’t run the risk of weighing down the lizard or rubbing off, and it involves a very fast procedure. Occasionally a lizard will lose a toe or two in the trials of daily life, but that doesn’t affect the identification to any significant extent. In the rare extreme case that a lizard’s toes are gone beyond recognition, process of elimination using the other lizards in the cage quickly solves the problem. The toe clipping method does not have any noticeable effect on the performance of the lizards, especially when the clipping is done immediately after hatching.
It’s a simple procedure, but toe clipping has definitely made the abundance of scaly members of the Glor Lab a little easier to manage.