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Herpetology is a branch of zoology that deals with the study of amphibians and reptiles. Biologists use the term “herp” to refer to all reptiles and amphibians and people who keep different types of reptiles and amphibians as a hobby often refer to themselves as “herpers.” There are many herpetological societies that exist today to help promote an interest in herps, both in the wild and those held in captive as pets. Amphibians are tetra pods or four-legged vertebrates that spend part of their lives on land (breathing with lungs) and part of their lives under water (breathing with gills.) They are ectothermic (the term previously known as “cold-blooded,“) which means their body temperature depends on the temperature of their environment. The three groups of amphibians are: frogs and toads (anurans,) newts and salamanders (urodeles,) and caecilians (worm-like gymnophiones.) There are approximately 6,200 living species of amphibians today. Reptiles are air-breathing, cold-blooded vertebrates that are covered with scales as opposed to hair or feathers. Reptiles live on every continent except Antarctica and include crocodiles and alligators, lizards, snakes, turtles and tortoises.

There are many things to consider before purchasing a herp as a pet. The first being that it’s a long term commitment. Turtles can live for more than 30 years and some lizards as long as 20 years. Also, contrary to the common believe that herps are low maintenance pets - they are not. The require the same care as any other pet - perhaps more due to their specialized needs to replicate their natural environment. Second, you must check your local laws to see if you need a special license or if there are any laws against owning the type of herp you are interested in keeping. Do some research to find out what kind of environment you will need - some amphibians require specific temperatures, certain amounts of light and water, for example. You will also need to know what your herp will eat and how big it will get so you will know what type of enclosure to purchase. Herp habitats (vivariums,) include terrariums, paludariums and aquariums. Reptiles for sale and reptile supplies can be found in most large pet stores, from a professional herp breeder and also online. Before purchasing, seek advice from a local herp club or society or an internet group. Aside from an enclosure for your pet, reptile supplies may include food, bedding and other accessories, feeders, water bottles, lighting and heating supplies.

There are many careers in the field of herpetology, which include research, zoological staff or curator, college professor, museum staff or curator and public and private herp breeders. A strong science and math background is needed for those wishing to pursue a career in herpetology. It’s also a highly competitive field, therefore many people concentrate on a specialized field such as ecology, evolution, taxonomy, molecular biology or physiology.


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