Investigating the Effect of Disturbance on Prey Consumption in Captive Congo Caecilians Herpele squalostoma

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Kimberley C Carter, Léa Fieschi-Méric, Francesca Servini, Mark Wilkinson, David J Gower, Benjamin Tapley, Christopher J Michaels
Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens
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Maintaining Gymnophiona in captivity provides opportunities to study the behaviour and life-history of this poorly known Order, and to investigate and provide species-appropriate welfare guidelines, which are currently lacking. This study focuses on the terrestrial caecilian Herpele squalostoma to investigate its sensitivity to disturbances associated with routine husbandry needed for monitoring and maintaining adequate wellbeing in captivity. Fossorial caecilians gradually pollute their environment in captivity with waste products, and substrate must be replaced at intervals; doing so disturbs the animals directly and via destruction of burrow networks. As inappetence is frequently associated with stress in amphibians, the percentage consumption of offered food types, river shrimp (Palaemon varians) and brown crickets (Gryllus assimilis), was measured as an indicator of putative stress following three routine substrate changes up to 297 days post-substrate change. Mean daily variation in substrate temperatures were also recorded in order to account for environmental influences on food consumption, along with nitrogenous waste in tank substrate prior to a substrate change and fresh top soil in order to understand the trade-off between dealing with waste accumulation and disturbing animals. We found a significant negative effect of substrate disturbance on food intake, but no significant effect of prey type. Variations in daily soil temperatures did not have a significant effect on food intake, but mean substrate temperature did. Additionally, substrate nitrogenous waste testing indicated little difference between fresh and tank substrate. In conclusion, this study provides a basis from which to develop further welfare assessment for this and other rarely kept and rarely observed terrestrial caecilian species.


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