Reptile Behavior is a Key Indicator of Welfare

Reptile behavior is a key indicator of welfare. Historically reptiles have been mislabeled as unintelligent and emotionally simple, but the evidence indica 게코도마뱀 tes they are actually very complex animals. 게코도마뱀


Examples of defensive displays include enlarging the body size (as in hognose snakes) and a display of bright colour. Tail displays are also common, especially in boids and a few lizard species.

Defensive Posture

When someone takes a defensive posture, they cover themselves against a physical attack. They may crouch, cross their arms or hunch over. They may also take a lower body position, such as straddling a chair back. They may also hold a staff or umbrella in front of them to act as a barrier. In addition to this protective stance, people in defensive positions are likely to move very little and show aggressive or passive body language. They may also growl or snarl at others.

Many reptiles, particularly snakes, may exhibit these defensive postures in captivity. These behaviors can be misinterpreted as signs of illness by novice owners. For example, hognose snakes often feign death displays with their heads hanging limply open and their mouths coiled in an S-coil. Similarly, turtles frequently bury themselves under rocks or in other debris. Although these behaviors are not a sign of disease, they can be alarming to a novice owner who may interpret them as an indication that the reptile is sick or dying.

To avoid these misinterpretations, veterinarians should always consider a reptile’s displayed behavior when assessing their health and welfare. Using behavioral grading, attending veterinarians can differentiate between normal and abnormal behavior. If a reptile is displaying an abnormal behavior, it should be addressed with environmental enrichment and biomedical training, as well as medications if necessary.


Reptiles use their environment and visual cues to locate and hunt prey. This is a key survival strategy that allows them to avoid predators and achieve a sufficient body weight to survive and reproduce.

Many reptiles employ camouflage adaptations to blend in with their environments and elude prey. Some species, particularly snakes, rely on ambush techniques such as lying still and waiting for potential prey to pass by before striking. This requires a high level of concentration and attention to the surroundings.

Other reptiles, such as hognose snakes (Heterodon sp) and shield tailed pythons (Python heteropodion), exhibit tail displays that can be used to divert the attention of a potential predator away from the head, which is more vulnerable, and towards the tail. This behavior is known as death feigning and can be observed in captivity with these snakes. The feigning behavior is often accompanied by an exaggerated S-coil and loud hissing followed by a false strike with the tail raised into a coiled position. The snake will then assume an inverted, limp posture and may excrete urates and/or feces.

Despite popular perceptions of reptiles as sedentary, all reptiles are active and can spend hours exploring their enclosures and foraging for food in the wild. However, some captive reptiles, such as pythons, may engage in repetitive behavior or ‘pacing’ behaviors that mimic hunting behaviors and are indicative of suboptimal conditions, especially when there is adequate food in the habitat.

Social Behavior

Reptiles exhibit a myriad of social behaviors that have been underappreciated. In The Secret Social Lives of Reptiles, three of the world’s leading experts on turtles, lizards, snakes, and crocodilians join a wave of new research with a synthesis of classic studies to reveal how these intriguing animals form close bonds, engage in aggressive contest competition, display sophisticated communication, and even behave as monogamous pairs.

The authors explore the sensory, genetic, and physiological factors that allow for such extraordinary reptilian behavior. They show how these fascinating behaviors challenge the false paradigm of solitary reptiles and demonstrate that these unique animals are central to the study of animal social behavior.

Dominance hierarchies are a feature of many reptilian social systems, and male aggression can be costly to the individual if it fails to achieve dominance. Morphological traits that promote success in aggressive contests include development of enlarged and specialized physical armaments, conspicuous coloration, stereotypical motor patterns, whole animal performance, and large overall size.

Healthy but stressed reptiles often writhe, hiss, puff up, and bite during handling, while some will cloacal evacuate or evert their hemipenes. Such displays are commonly misinterpreted by novice owners as signs of pain or neurologic disease. However, they are also signals of reptile stress that can be masked by environmental cues such as elevated temperatures that a reptile seeks when under stress.


Many people don’t think of reptiles as conversational creatures, but some lizard species are quite chatty. Leopard geckos, for example, are known to produce clicks and chirps to communicate with other members of their species during mating rituals. Hissing is another lizard sound, and it’s commonly used to convey discomfort or fear. In some cases, hissing is followed by a baring of the lizard’s teeth to create defenses.

Tortoises squeak to express emotions, as well. Their squeaks may indicate that they’re hungry, excited or agitated, and they also use them to alert other tortoises to danger.

As a result, it is important to provide a tortoise with a safe hiding place where it can feel secure in the presence of humans or other animals. Tortoises often squeak when their terrarium is being cleaned or their food bowls are being filled, and they may also squeak when they’re enjoying an interaction with their keeper.

Although reptiles are not known for their musical abilities, they can make a variety of noises to communicate with other members of their species or warn others of possible danger. For instance, crocodiles can produce a low-frequency bellow when threatened and can be heard from a great distance. Snakes, however, can only hear a limited range of sounds because they lack outer and middle ears. Instead, a single middle ear bone connects their inner ears to their jaw.