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Reptile and Amphibian News

Critically Endangered Spider Tortoise Hatches

May 22, 2015

Just in time for World Turtle Day on May 23, we have a tiny addition to celebrate. The Smithsonian's National Zoo hatched a critically endangered spider tortoise for the first time at the Zoo! The baby tortoise broke out of its shell May 10 and appears to be doing well. This little guy weighs about 15 grams and easily fits in the palm of your hand. Spider tortoise eggs incubate differently from other turtle species. The eggs experience a diapause—or a cooling period. Keepers incubated the eggs, then cooled them for several weeks, and finally warmed them back up. Not many zoos have successfully hatched spider tortoise eggs. Learn more.

Recent News

Keeping up with the Crocs!

May 2015

May 2015 has been a busy year for crocodile nesting! Rose, the Cuban crocodile, laid 28 eggs and our Chinese crocodile laid 24 eggs. Stay tuned to keep up with the crocs!

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Insitute Scientists Find Sudden Stream Temperature Changes Boost Hellbender Immune Systems

September 11, 2013

Hellbenders, aquatic salamanders from the eastern United States, are surprisingly good at dealing with unpredictable weather. In a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute found that hellbenders can experience large changes in daily stream temperature (from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit) without any ill effects. In fact, when scientists mimicked these natural temperature swings in the lab, hellbenders became more resistant to bacterial infection.

National Zoo and Partners First to Breed Critically Endangered Tree Frog

August 2, 2010

As frogs around the world continue to disappear—many killed by a rapidly spreading disease called chytridiomycosis, which attacks the skin cells of amphibians—one critically endangered species has received an encouraging boost.

Japanese Giant Salamanders at the Zoo

August 2, 2010

One of Japan’s “special natural treasures” is now among the National Zoo’s most valued scientific gems, after a voyage that has united two cultures in an international conservation effort.