GUIDELINES FOR USE OF LIVE AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES IN FIELD ANDLABORATORY RESEARCH
Second Edition, Revised by the Herpetological Animal Care and Use Committee (HACC) of theAmerican Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, 2004. (Committee Chair: Steven J.
Beaupre, Members: Elliott R. Jacobson, Harvey B. Lillywhite, and Kelly Zamudio).
I. Introduction (2)II. General Considerations (3)III. Role of the IACUC (6)IV. Research with Amphibians and Reptiles (8)
a. Habitat and Population Considerations (8)b. Live Capture (trapping and other methods) (9)c. Field Sheets, Record Keeping, and Photography (9)d. Commercial Acquisition (9)
2. Restraint, Handling and Anesthesia (10)
a. General Principles (Manual versus Chemical) (10)b. Hazardous Species (12)
3. Non-Invasive Procedures (13)4. Biological Samples (14)
a. Blood Sampling (14)b. Tissue Sampling (16)
a. General Principles (17)b. Procedures (18)
a. Passive Integrated Transponders (19)b. Toe Clipping (19)c. Scale Clipping/Branding (20)d. Tattoos and Dye Markers (20)e. Banding and Tagging (20)f. Shell Marking (21)g. Radioisotopes (21)h. Radiotelemetry (21)
7. Euthanasia (22)8. Museum Specimens (23)
1. General Considerations (24)2. Short-Term Housing (25)
a. Transportation (25)b. Temporary Field Site Housing (25)
b. Thermal Requirements (26)c. Lighting (26)d. Air Changes and Humidity (27)e. Food and Water (27)f. Substrates (27)g. Other Considerations (28)
VI. Disposition of Ill or Dear Animals During Course of Study (28)
1. Diagnosis (28)2. Treatment (28)3. Necropsy (28)
VII. Disposition of Living Healthy Animals Following Study (29)
a. Incineration (30)b. Donation to Teaching or Museum Collections (30)
a. Transfer to Other Studies (30)b. Adoption (30)c. Repatriation into the Wild (30)
VIII. Preparation and Revision of These Guidelines (31)IX. References (32)X. Appendix A: Additional Resources (42)
Consistent with our long-standing interests in conservation, education, research and the generalwell-being of amphibians and reptiles, the ASIH, HL and SSAR support the following principlesand guidelines for scientists conducting research on these animals. Successful care and husbandryof amphibians and reptiles depends on procedures different from accepted guidelines for birds andmammals commonly used in biomedical research, and the welfare of wild-caught animals oftenrequires considerations different from those applicable to captive-bred or domesticated species.
Thus, these guidelines are intended for use by researchers, educators, and resource managers fromuniversities and colleges, zoological parks, research institutions, natural resource agencies, andconsultants to private or public institutions and agencies.
Investigations involving amphibians and reptiles, their wild populations, and their habitats
are of profound importance to advancement of basic scientific knowledge that is vital to the well-being of human societies as well as to the improved treatment and conservation of thesevertebrates in the wild and in captivity. Although acquisition of basic scientific knowledge canjustify research with amphibians and reptiles, the use of these animals in scientific research canproduce effects that cannot always be predicted. Many investigations may involve simpleobservations of animals, while others require some form of manipulation, either in the field or incaptivity. Such studies can disrupt normal activities, induce stress, or otherwise lead to abnormal
behaviors that possibly place individuals at greater risk due to increased susceptibility topredation, accidents, or disease. Thus, just as with other vertebrate groups, the use of amphibiansand reptiles in research and teaching raises ethical questions that must be carefully consideredprior to the initiation of a project.
The humane treatment of both captive and wild vertebrates is an ethical, legal, and
scientific necessity. Traumatized or stressed animals may exhibit abnormal physiological,behavioral and ecological responses that defeat the purposes of the investigation (Raney andLachner, 1947; Pritchard et al., 1982). Humane treatment of wild-captured animals requiresminimal impairment of their abilities to resume normal activities when returned to the wild.
Moreover, habitats that are essential for these activities should not be rendered unsuitable duringthe course of capture or study efforts. Any deviation from conditions that eliminate or minimizerisks to animals requires justification to an Animal Care and Use Committee.
Growing concern for the well being and humane treatment of research animals has led
several agencies and professional organizations to publish guidelines for the care and use ofanimals in the field and laboratory. However, due to the large range of diversity represented bythe over 12,280 species of amphibians and reptiles, no concise or specific compendium ofapproved or required methods for field and laboratory research is practical or desirable. Ablanket approach such as that applied to domesticated lines of research animals (e.g., laboratoryrodents) would not work for animals as diverse as these, many of which have millions of years ofindependent evolution and consequently adaptations to unique environments or conditions.
Rather, the guidelines presented below build on the most current information available for variousgroups of reptile and amphibians and are intended as a guide for the investigator (who will oftenbe an authority on the biology of the species under study) - of the techniques that are known to behumane and effective. Ultimate responsibility for the ethical and scientific validity of aninvestigation, and the methods employed therein, must rest with the investigator. To those whoadhere to the principles of careful research, these guidelines will simply be a formal statement ofprecautions already in place. We emphasize that because of the sometimes species-specificrequirements of many reptiles and amphibians, the refinement of animal care and use guidelinesfor amphibians and reptiles will always be an evolving process.
II. General Considerations
It is the responsibility of investigators to balance humane treatment and scientific discovery.
Specifically, one must prioritize humane treatment while achieving valid scientific goals. Towardthis end, each investigator should provide written assurance to Institutional Animal Care and UseCommittees that field or laboratory research with amphibians and reptiles will meet the followingcriteria:
a. Procedures should avoid or minimize distress to the animals, consistent with a
b. Procedures do not constitute unnecessary duplications of previous work.
Procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight distress to the animalsshould be performed with appropriate sedation, analgesia, or anesthesia, exceptwhen justified for scientific reasons by the investigator.
Animals that would otherwise experience severe or chronic stress or pain thatcannot be relieved should be euthanized at the end of the procedure or, ifappropriate, during the procedure.
Methods of euthanasia will be consistent with recommendations of the AmericanVeterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Panel on Euthanasia (AVMA, 2001;Smith et al., 1986), unless deviation is justified for scientific reasons by theinvestigator. However, the AVMA recommendations cannot be taken rigidly forectothermic vertebrates; the methods suggested for endothermic birds or mammalsare often not applicable to ectotherms, which have significant anaerobic capacities.
Additional information on euthanasia of reptiles and amphibians can be foundelsewhere (see Cooper et al., 1989; AVMA, 2001; McDiarmid, 1994; Chen andCombs, 1999).
The living conditions of animals held in captivity either in the laboratory, at holdingfacilities, or at field sites should be appropriate for that species and contribute totheir health and well being. The housing, feeding, and non-medical care of theanimals will be directed by a scientist (generally the investigator) who is trained orexperienced in the proper care, handling, and use of the species being maintainedor studied. While recognizing that living requirements of amphibians and reptilesmay differ dramatically from those conventionally assumed for laboratorymammals, the investigator should ensure that all animals are maintained in a stateof cleanliness that promotes good health and a safe and stress-free environment.
Feeding intervals, requirements for water, temperature, and humidity levels willvary greatly, and the departure of these parameters from mammalian norms shouldbe carefully explained to IACUC members, attending veterinarians, or otherpersonnel who might not be knowledgeable about the biology of amphibians andreptiles. Some experiments (e.g., competition studies) will require the housing ofmixed species, often in the same enclosure. Mixed housing is also appropriate forholding or displaying certain species. Whereas considerable information isavailable for reptiles/amphibians in captivity in the laboratory, private, andzoological collections, little information is available for housing in the field. It isexpected that the investigator working with a species will have the expertise toconstruct enclosures suitable for the focal taxon. Enclosing areas where the speciesoccurs naturally is one way to provide a semi-natural environment. Animals heldor enclosed in the field should be monitored carefully for natural behaviors and thatsufficient food resources are available, either naturally or through supplementation.
Additional general considerations that should be incorporated into any research
project using wild amphibians or reptiles include the following:
The investigator must have knowledge of all regulations pertaining to the animalsunder study, and must obtain all necessary federal, state, and local permits for theproposed studies. (See the following for applicable regulations: Estes andSessions, 1984a; Estes and Sessions, 1984b; King and Schrock, 1985; Levell,1997; Malaro, 1998; Tompkins, 1998; Simmons 2002; and web resources listed inAppendix A). Researchers working outside the United States should ensure theycomply with all wildlife regulations of the country in which the research is beingperformed. Work with many species is regulated by the provisions of theConvention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna(CITES; see “CITES” references in Estes and Sessions, 1984a; Estes and Sessions,1984b; Malaro, 1998; Tompkins 1998; and the CITES home page lister inAppendix A). Regulations affecting a single species may vary with country andwith districts or regions.
Individuals of endangered or threatened taxa should not be removed from the wildnor imported or exported, except in cases involving conservation efforts that are infull compliance with applicable regulations.
Before initiating field research, investigators must be familiar with the targetspecies and its response to disturbance, sensitivity to capture and restraint, and, ifnecessary, requirements for captive maintenance to the extent that these factors areknown and applicable to a particular investigation. Special concern should beshown for species known to remain with nests or young during certain seasons.
Removal from the wild of individuals of species known to tend nests should, as ageneral principle, be avoided during the nesting season, unless such removal isjustified for scientific reasons.
Investigators should give consideration to the possibility of disease vectoring byresearchers and research activities. Diseases are of special concern with amphibianpopulations. Information, guidelines, and recommendations for minimizing thepossibility of spreading disease have been developed, and are available fromseveral internet sources (DAPTF, 2004; Speare, 2001). These information sourcesshould be carefully consulted by researchers prior to field activities.
Every effort should be made prior to removal of animals (if any) to understand thepopulation status (abundant, threatened, rare, etc.) of the taxa to be studied, andthe numbers of animals removed from the wild must be kept to the minimum theinvestigator determines is necessary to accomplish the goals of the study. Thisstatement should not be interpreted as proscribing study and/or collection ofuncommon species. Indeed, collection for scientific study can be crucial tounderstanding why a species is uncommonly observed.
The numbers of specimens required for an investigation will vary greatly,depending on the nature of the questions explored. Certain investigations willrequire collection of relatively large numbers of specimens, though the actualpercent of any population taken will generally be very small. Studies should usethe fewest animals necessary to answer reliably the questions being posed. Use ofadequate numbers to assure reliability and statistical power is essential, asinadequate studies will ultimately require repetition and can result in wasted animaluse. When appropriate, numbers of animals should be justified by specificstatistical design requirements, and formal power analysis.
Numerous publications exist that will assist investigators and animal care committees inimplementing these general guidelines; a number of useful publications are listed in the literaturecited section and in Appendix A.
III. Role of IACUC
Recognizing that the function of the IACUC is to ensure humane use of reptiles and amphibians inlaboratory and field research, rather than to curtail it, the IACUC should make every effort towork with Investigators such that their research missions are supported. The role of the IACUCin approving and monitoring laboratory use of reptiles and amphibians includes responsibilities forensuring that laboratory facilities and housing support the health and well-being of study animals.
Furthermore, periodic inspection of such facilities should be the norm, as it is for other traditionalresearch models. Field resources for the care and use of wild vertebrates are very different fromlaboratory resources, and the role of the IACUC necessarily is limited to considerations that arepractical for implementation at locations where field research is to be conducted. Prevailingconditions may prevent investigators from following these general guidelines to the letter at alltimes. However, the IACUC should expect that investigators will make every effort to follow thespirit of these guidelines. The omission from these guidelines of a specific research or husbandrytechnique should not be interpreted as proscription of the technique.
The IACUC must be aware that whereas vertebrates typically used in laboratory researchrepresent a small number of species with well understood husbandry requirements, the classesAmphibia and Reptilia contain at least 12,280 distinct species with very diverse and often poorlyknown behavioral, physiological and ecological characteristics. This diversity, coupled with thediversity of laboratory and field research situations, requires that each project be judged on itsown merits. Techniques that are useful and fitting for one taxon, experiment, or field situationmay, in another context be counter-productive. Therefore, in most cases, it is impossible togenerate specific guidelines for groups larger than a few closely related species. Indeed, thepremature stipulation of specific guidelines would “severely inhibit humane care as well asresearch" (Guidelines for Care and Use of Lower Vertebrates, 1986). The IACUC must note thefrequent use of the word "should" throughout these guidelines, and be aware that this is indeliberate recognition of the diversity of animals and situations covered by the guidelines.
Investigators, on the other hand, must be aware that the use of the word "should" denotes theethical obligation to follow these guidelines whenever realistically possible.
Laboratory studies are generally conducted under relatively controlled circumstances with thepurpose of testing specific hypotheses within the framework of a broader scientific investigation.
Under such circumstances, the IACUC should reasonably assume that investigators can providedefensible estimates of the numbers of animals required for a study, and outline in detail theconditions under which animals will be housed and manipulated. As practicing herpetologists, werecognize the importance of reptiles and amphibians as model systems for teaching basicbiological principles in the classroom laboratory. We also note the social and conservationbenefits of public outreach using captive amphibians and reptiles. Therefore, the IACUC shouldbe prepared to approve the humane use of reptiles and amphibians for educational purposes,including both routine use in University teaching laboratories, and maintenance of captive animalsfor the purposes of general public education. As in laboratory research, the use of reptiles andamphibians in teaching laboratories should be described in sufficient detail to justify numbers andprocedures. Of particular importance is the Instructor’s assurance that procedures using animalsin teaching laboratories yield real pedagogical benefits that cannot be obtained by alternativemeans (e.g., computer simulations). Collections of animals maintained for educational purposeswill vary, but they will be usually field-collected and will likely vary in species composition. TheIACUC should be willing and prepared to accept “blanket” protocol applications that involve theshort- to long-term captivity of several taxonomically diverse species for the purposes of publicoutreach as well as exploratory research.
Field investigations very commonly involve studies of interactions among many related orsympatric species, of which a large proportion may be poorly known. There is sound scientificmerit in exploratory work, and ample reason for investigators to propose studies of a rathergeneral nature, where opportunity and the flexibility to pursue unanticipated observations maybecome crucial to the success of the undertaking. New species continue to be discovered in thisfashion, and the discovery of novel attributes of known species is to be expected as a consequenceof the investigation. The IACUC should recognize that the acquisition of such new knowledgeconstitutes a major justification for any investigation, and that a corollary of this approach is thatprotocols may list a large number of individual species, or may refer to taxa above the specieslevel. The uncontrolled nature of field studies, and the diversity of organisms involved make fieldstudies very different from typical biomedical research (Lindzey et al., 2002). Therefore, theIACUC should realize that standard formats for medical research applications may be inadequatefor field studies (Lindzey et al., 2002). An example application form designed specifically for fieldresearch has been described (Lindzey et al., 2002) and is available on the internet(http://www.research.usf.edu/cm/).
When laboratory or field studies on wild vertebrates are to be reviewed, the IACUC must includepersonnel who can provide an understanding of the nature and impact of the proposedinvestigation, the housing of the species to be studied, and knowledge concerning the risksassociated with maintaining certain species of wild vertebrates in captivity. Each IACUC shouldtherefore include at least one institution-appointed member who is experienced in zoological fieldinvestigations. Such personnel may be appointed to the committee on an ad hoc basis to providenecessary expertise. When sufficient personnel with the necessary expertise in this area are notavailable within an institution, this ad hoc representative may be a qualified member from anotherinstitution. Alternatively, when the IACUC lacks the expertise to evaluate and approve specific
procedures there are several potential remedies including, but not limited to, educationaldemonstrations by the principle investigator and external review by expert. We note however,that external review can be time consuming and should not cost legitimate field researchersopportunities to conduct seasonally-sensitive research. The IACUC should be sensitive to theimportance of timing in field research with amphibians and reptiles and make every effort toapprove legitimate protocol applications.
Field research on native amphibians and reptiles requires permits from state and/or federal wildlifeagencies. These agencies review applications for their scientific merit and their potential impact onnative populations, and issue permits that authorize the taking of specified numbers of individuals,the taxa and methods allowed, the period of study, and often other restrictions which are designedto minimize the likelihood that an investigation will have deleterious effects on naturalpopulations. Legal permission to conduct field research rests with these agencies, and the IACUCshould seek to avoid infringement on their authority to control the use of wildlife species.
Conversely, the IACUC may reasonably require evidence of proper permits from relevantagencies.
IV. Research with Amphibians and Reptiles
1. Collecting and Acquisition
Laboratory and field research with amphibians and reptiles frequently involves capture of
specimens, whether for preservation, data recording, marking, temporary or long-term
confinement, or relocation. We treat each of the general research activities for field and
a. Habitat and Population Considerations
Whether collecting for permanent laboratory use, future release, or museum preparation, each
investigator should observe, and require of students and co-workers, a strict ethic of habitat
conservation. In general, collecting should always be conducted so as to leave habitat as
undisturbed as possible, especially for species dependent on highly specialized habitat or for which
essential details of life history and population biology or poorly known. Permanent removal of
large numbers of animals from any breeding or hibernation aggregation should be avoided unless
justified in writing for scientific reasons by the investigator. The judgment of what constitutes
“large numbers” is subjective, but may be informed by some knowledge of population size.
Similarly, destructive sampling of large numbers of gravid females from any population should be
avoided unless justified for scientific reasons. When permanent, destructive human alteration of
habitat is imminent (construction, water impoundment, etc.), removal of entire populations may
be justified. Systematists should investigate extant collections for suitable specimens before
conducting fieldwork. However, under some circumstances (e.g., field studies of competition),
permanent removal of animals may be part of a valid experimental design, and should be allowed
with proper justification.
b. Live capture, (trapping and other methods)
Live Capture. - Investigators should be familiar with herpetological capture techniques (Dunham
et al., 1988; Heyer et al., 1994; Brown, 1997; Simmons, 2002) and should choose a method
suited to both the species and the study. Live-capture techniques should prevent or minimizedamage to the animal. In addition, live-capture techniques for venomous or otherwise hazardousspecies should be carefully chosen so as to minimize risk to animals and researchers.
Trapping. - Traps of various kinds are often necessary to obtain unbiased samples of secretive,nocturnal or infrequently active species (Corn, 1994). The interval between visits to traps shouldbe as short as possible, although it may vary with species, weather, objectives of the study, andthe type of trap. Traps should be checked daily when weather conditions threaten survival oftrapped animals. Investigators must make every effort to prevent trap deaths from exposure,drowning, cardiogenic shock, or capture myopathy (Young, 1975). Traps should be shelteredfrom environmental extremes and care should be taken to reduce predation in pitfall traps(Gibbons and Semlitsch, 1981). Pitfall traps set during extremely dry or wet periods should beequipped so as to prevent desiccation and/or drowning of captured reptiles and amphibians (Corn,1994). Traps should be tightly covered between sampling periods and removed at conclusion of astudy.
c. Field sheets, record keeping, and photography
Whenever an animal is handled and samples are collected, all information that relates to the animal
and sample should be thoroughly described and entered into either a field notebook or on specific
forms that have been developed to record this information. Information should be as detailed as
possible. As much pertinent information should be collected and recorded as possible including
species, weight, morphometric measurements, and sex. Weather conditions should be noted.
When practical, images should be collected of each animal handled and digital cameras have made
this process very easy. While one can always eliminate excess information, it is impossible to go
back and retrieve information that is forgotten or has been missed. Health assessment forms have
been developed for the desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii
(Berry and Christopher, 2001), and
can serve as a model for other reptiles and also amphibians.
If an animal dies or is euthanized and is necropsied, necropsy forms should be used to
record information. These forms vary between institutions, and their application is especiallyimportant when researching species of special conservation concern. An example of one suchform has been developed for sea turtles and is available on line(http://www.vetmed.ufl.edu/sacs/wildlife/seaturtletechniques/index.htm). The times at start andfinish of the necropsy should be noted. For captive animals, a summary of the clinical course ofeach animal should be recorded. For wild animals found dead in the field, the stranding data sheetshould be attached to the necropsy report. Photographs should be taken of the entire carcass, bothdorsally and ventrally, and of any lesions recognized.
d. Commercial acquisition
Under some circumstances, study animals may be acquired through commercial suppliers for
laboratory studies and teaching applications. Generally speaking, licensed amphibian and reptile
dealers acquire their specimens through field capture, trade, or captive breeding. Upon receipt of
commercial specimens, and prior to introduction to any existing laboratory colonies, commercial
specimens should be subjected to careful inspection for potential health problems or known
pathogens. If feasible, a quarantine period may be advisable.
2. Restraint, Handling, and Anesthesia
a. General principles: manual versus chemical
The decision to use physical or chemical restraint of wild amphibians or reptiles should be based
upon design of the experiment, knowledge of behavior of the animals, and availability of facilities.
Investigators should determine and use the least amount of restraint necessary to do the
procedure in a humane manner. Because amphibians or reptiles, especially venomous or toxic
species (including those with toxic skin secretions), may be capable of inflicting serious injury
either on themselves or those handling them, some form of restraint often is prudent. The well-
being of the animal under study is of paramount importance; improper restraint, especially of
frightened animals, can lead to major physical or physiological disturbances that can result in
deleterious or even fatal consequences.
Animals are best handled quietly and with the minimum personnel necessary. Slightly darkenedconditions tend to alleviate stress and quiet the animals and are recommended wheneverappropriate. When handling large reptiles, netting, maneuvering or dropping them into a bag it ispreferable to the use of hooks, tongs, etc., to reduce struggling and damage or stress to theindividual. Work with venomous species should never be done alone. Plastic tubes may be usedwhen handling venomous snakes (Murphy and Armstrong, 1978). Snakes are guided into thetubes using a snake stick and when in the proper location, researchers can secure the animal bygrasping the end of the tube (at the junction with the snake’s body), thus impeding forward orbackward movement of the snake.
Details on the use of tranquillizers, sedatives, and anesthetics have been reviewed elsewhere foramphibians (Fellers et al., 1994; Wright, 2001a) and reptiles (Heard, 2001; Fleming, 2001). Theselection of the particular chemical that will aid the investigator when restraint is needed willdepend upon the species being studied and the experience of the investigator or the consultingveterinarian. No single chemical is ideal for all reptiles and amphibians in all situations.
Administration of a tranquilizer or sedative to an animal that is restrained in a body squeeze mayprevent injury to the animal and/or persons working with it. Special procedures are needed forvenomous reptiles (Gillingham, 1983).
In some cases, administration of general anesthesia for restraint in the field may be advisable. Ifso, the anesthetic chosen should be a low-risk one that permits rapid return to normalphysiological and behavioral state. The animal must be kept under observation until completerecovery occurs. The relatively unpredictable and potentially delayed response of someectotherms to immobilants or anesthetics may contraindicate use of these chemicals under fieldconditions. Investigators must understand the specific action of restraint chemicals on the taxastudied. The investigator also should be prepared, if necessary, to hold the animal overnight untilrecovery is complete. A partially recovered animal may be at risk for injury, overheating, freezing,or predation.
Chemical Restraint. - Many chemicals used for restraint or immobilization of amphibians orreptiles are controlled by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Drugs. Permits are generallyrequired for purchase or use of these chemicals. Extensive information on these substances and
their use is available (Code of Federal Regulations, 1980; Marcus, 1981; Wallach and Boever,1983), and permit application procedures are available from regional DEA offices.
For vertebrates in general, an appropriate chemical should usually be used whenever a
procedure will cause pain or discomfort. The issue of pain in lower vertebrates can be traced backto 1900 (Dearborn, 1900). The author of this early study concluded that between the ”maximumand minimum of developed life, all animal life has place and has accordingly, from this theoreticalpoint of view, some degree or other of what, for want of a better term, is called pain.” In a recentreview of analgesia in fish, amphibians and reptiles (Machin, 2001), the author notes that theability of an animal to perceive pain and distress is related to its taxonomic position in the AnimalKingdom, with mammals having a greater capacity than other vertebrates (Stevens, 1992).
However, evidence is slowly accumulating to support presence of pain perception in amphibiansand reptiles. In amphibians the smallest unmyelinated axons respond to painful stimulation (Spray,1976). The endogenous opioid system that modulate the central processing of noxiousstimulation in mammals are also present in amphibians (Stevens, 1988). While there are relativelyfew studies on the mechanism of pain perception in reptiles, the presence of nociceptor neurons inthe oral mucosa and facial skin of crotaline snakes (Liang and Terashima, 1993), the effects oflow dosages of opioids on the response of crocodilians to painful stimuli (Kanui and Hole, 1992),the presence of anatomic pathways that register noxious stimuli (Ten Donkelaar and de Boer-vanHuizen, 1987), and behavioral response to noxious stimuli (Chrisman et al., 1997), all supportpain perception in a wide variety of reptiles. Investigators should assume (unless provenotherwise) that any invasive procedure will cause pain in their research animal. The behavioralresponse to pain may be expressed differentially across taxonomic groups and nuancescharacteristic of a group will need to be appreciated. We note, however, that pain is an adaptiveresponse in the sense that it reduces use of injured parts during the healing process. Suchinformation should probably not be withheld from post-operative animals released into the field(e.g., after radio transmitter implant).
In order to reduce or eliminate pain, various chemicals that are used for this purpose in
mammals also have application in reptiles. This includes the use of analgesics, sedatives,tranquilizers and anesthetics (Fleming, 2001; Heard, 2001; Machin, 2001). Because of theuncertainty of chemical actions on ectotherms, certain minor procedures may in the long run, beless traumatic to animals when anesthetics are not used. It is noteworthy that the elimination ofpain by chemical means may impose increased handling and recovery time and consequentincreases in stress. Therefore, there is an inherent trade-off between the severity and duration ofpain, use of anesthetics, and stress produced by handling. In cases where the ultimate objective isto minimize disturbance for observing natural behavior, the use of anesthetics may be undesired inorder to minimize handling time. The IACUC should be receptive to reasonable justification ofsuch procedures (e.g., toe-clipping, venipuncture).
The potent drugs available for wildlife immobilization when properly used are relatively
safe (with the exception of succinylcholine) for target animals, but can be extremely dangerous ifaccidentally administered to humans. Succinylcholine has been used for immobilization ofcrocodilians and large chelonians. While capable of immobilizing an animal through itsdepolarizing effects at neuromuscular junctions, this chemical belongs to a class of drugs that haveno analgesic properties at all. They should never be used as a means for collecting biopsies orperforming any painful procedures. More effective chemicals are available for immobilizing most
amphibians (Fellers et al., 1994; Wright, 2001a) and reptiles (Heard, 2001). The degree of dangervaries according to the drug, and users must be aware of the appropriate action to take in theevent of accident (Parker and Adams, 1978). Several common local anesthetics (e.g., Tetracaine,Lidocaine, Piperocaine, etc.) can be used for collecting biopsies. Lidocaine has been used mostcommonly and is generally infiltrated around the biopsy site. In small species these drugs mayhave systemic effects and animals treated with these drugs should be observed before release tothe wild to be certain that behavior approximates normal. Investigators should choose thechemical for immobilization with consideration of the effects of that chemical on the targetorganism and in consultation with researchers that have relevant experience.
b. Hazardous Species
Venomous snakes and lizards, certain large non-venomous lizards and snakes, some colubridsnakes (McKinstry, 1983), highly poisonous frogs, crocodilians, and some large turtles arepotentially dangerous, and require special methods of restraint and handling as a compromisebetween potential injury to handlers and injurious restraint of the animal. The particular methodchosen will vary with species and the purpose of the project. There are three elements tosuccessful and safe handling of hazardous species; attention, equipment, and distance.
Investigators should never rely on any one of these three elements alone, safety can only beachieved by the simultaneous application of all three.
1) Attention: Hazardous wild animals are unpredictable. Investigators should always maintain
concentration, and their attention on the animal while handling. Never work with hazardous
species under distracting circumstances.
(2) Equipment: Using equipment such as tongs, tubes and squeeze boxes (Quinn and Jones, 1974)places a barrier between the investigator and the animal. A barrier is critical to keeping theinvestigator safe, but should never be trusted completely. For example, the use of heavy leatherwelding gloves to handle small venomous snakes is a technique that has resulted in some cases ofaccidental envenomation when fangs penetrate the glove. Gloves give researchers a false sense ofsecurity (which causes lapse of attention), and if they fail, the investigator is not protected byattention or distance.
(3) Distance: Attention and equipment cannot prevent accidents if they lapse; however, distance issure to prevent injury. Investigators should always keep hazardous species at a safe distance frombody and extremities, even when they are controlled by equipment.
Adherence to the following general guidelines is recommended when housing and working withhazardous species (Gans and Taub, 1964):
a. Procedures chosen should minimize the amount of handling time required, and reduce or
eliminate contact between handler and animal. For example, bare-handing venomoussnakes is a practice that is entrenched in some areas of herpetological research andhusbandry despite the fact that injury to snakes and their handlers are common. The
availability of tongs, tubes, and other handling devices renders direct contact betweeninvestigators and the head or neck of a venomous snake unnecessary. There are few, if any,legitimate circumstances where venomous snakes must be handled with the investigator’sbare hand at the head or neck.
b. Those handling venomous snakes or lizards should be knowledgeable concerning the
proper methods and tools for handling these animals. A training plan should be in placethat emphasizes safe procedures and responsibility.
c. Animal technicians should be aware of emergency procedures to be instituted in case of
accidental envenomation. Location of a nearby hospital with a supply of antivenin and of aphysician with knowledge of envenomation treatment should be ascertained in advance. Ata minimum, emergency procedures should include first aid measures, an evacuation plan(for field and laboratory), the logging of relevant data (species, time of envenomation,circumstances), and contact numbers for relevant medical professionals (personalphysicians, nearest Poison Control Center). We also recommend the use of cell phones forboth field and laboratory activities.
d. One should avoid working alone. A second person, knowledgeable of capture/handling
techniques and emergency measures, should be present whenever possible.
e. Prior consultation with workers experienced with hazardous species, and review of the
relevant literature, is of particular importance because much of the information on handlingdangerous species is not published, but is passed simply from one investigator to another.
Laboratories that work with hazardous species often have handling protocols written informal manuals that can be obtained by request (e.g., Beaupre, 1999). Some institutionsmay require written handling protocols for hazardous species.
f. Housing of hazardous species requires special care to avoid escape. Hazardous species
should be kept in locking cages (i.e., cages with locking mechanisms that do not rely onweighted lids), which should in turn be isolated in locked, escape-proof rooms. Suchrooms should be inspected carefully and any potential routes of escape (including air vents,drains, exposed fixtures, or cracks under doors) should be blocked.
3. Non-Invasive Procedures
A variety of diagnostic techniques have some application for field use. Most of these proceduresentail various forms of imaging. Portable X-ray machines can be used in the field and have beenused most commonly to determine presence of eggs in the coelomic cavity of chelonians. This hasalso been used to evaluate density of the skeletal system and therefore provide information on thenutritional status of the animal. Field workers need to be instructed in proper use of thisequipment to reduce exposure to radiation. Radiation exposure badges should be used andmonitored. Lead lined gloves and an apron should be used. Ultrasound devices also have beenused to evaluate the reproductive status of female reptiles in the field. Imaging procedures such as
CAT scans and MRIs, while technically feasible, have not been adapted to field use. While mobilemachines are available from private companies, the cost of using these machines is a major factorlimiting their use in the field. Pulse oximiters that have been developed for measuring oxygensaturation of blood and pulse rate of mammals, also have been used for monitoring reptilepatients. However the data provided by such devices has not been validated for the oxygendissociation curves of reptiles.
4. Biological Samples
a. Blood Sampling
The total amount of blood that can be safely withdrawn from a reptile or amphibian depends uponthe animal's size and health status. The total blood volume of reptiles varies between species butas a generalization is approximately 5 to 8% of total body weight (Lillywhite and Smits, 1984;Smits and Kozubowski, 1985). Thus, a 100 g snake has an estimated blood volume of 5 to 8 ml.
Healthy reptiles can lose 10% of their blood volume without any detrimental consequences, thus,from a snake weighing 100 g, 0.7-ml of blood can be withdrawn safely. Much larger volumepercentages of blood can be removed over an extended period of time (Lillywhite et al., 1983).
However, this practice is limited to experimental animals under controlled laboratory conditions.
Several sites can be used depending upon size and species being sampled (Wright, 2001b).
Urodeles can be sampled from the heart, abdominal vein and ventral tail vein. A cannulationtechnique has been described for the mudpuppy, Necturus maculosus
, and for the bullfrog (Ranacatesbeiana
(Copeland and DeRoos 1971; Herman et al., 1978). Frogs can be sampled from alingual venous plexus, ventral abdominal vein, and tail vein.
Several sites can be used in obtaining blood from chelonians, each having advantages and
disadvantages. Sites include the heart, jugular vein, brachial vein, ventral coccygeal vein, orbitalsinus, and trimmed toenails (Gandal, 1958; Dessauer, 1970; McDonald, 1976; Maxwell, 1979;Taylor and Jacobson, 1981; Rosskopf, 1982; Stephens and Creekmore, 1983; Avery and Vitt,1984; Nagy and Medica, 1986; Jacobson, 1987).
Cardiac sampling, although not recommended, has been utilized. In young chelonians,
before the shell has calcified, a needle can be passed through the plastron into the heart. Oldertortoises with calcified shells requires either drilling a hole through the plastron over the heart, orusing a spinal needle for percutaneous sampling through soft tissue in the axillary region at thebase of the forelimbs. In all situations, a sterile technique is necessary since contamination of thepericardial sac with bacteria and other potential pathogens can lead to pericarditis and death of theturtle. A sterile drill bit should be used to create a hole, and the hole should be sealed with anappropriate sealant such as bone wax (Johnson and Johnson Co., Somerville, N.J., USA) and amethacrylate resin (Cyanoveneer, Ellman International Mfg., Inc., Hewlett, N.Y. USA).
In turtles and tortoises orbital sinus sampling can be used for collecting small volumes of
blood in capillary tubes (Nagy and Medica, 1986). However, in order to prevent damage toperiocular tissues and possible trauma to the cornea a moderate amount of care must be takenwhen using this technique. The end of the capillary tube is placed into the lateral canthus of theorbit and utilizing a gentle twisting motion blood can be collected. A further problem with this
technique is that dilution of the blood sample with extravascular fluids and secretions may altercomposition of plasma and effect volume percentages of cellular components. Blood samples arealso commonly obtained from the scapular vein, brachial vein and brachial artery of chelonians(Rosskopf, 1982; Avery and Vitt 1984). However, vessels associated with limbs can rarely bevisualized through the skin, and sampling is usually blind. In addition, since lymphatics are welldeveloped in chelonian forelimbs (Ottaviani and Tazzi, 1977), obtaining blood samples from thesevessels may result in hemodilution with lymph. At times pure lymph may be obtained.
One of the authors (E. Jacobson) has found that the only peripheral blood vessels which
can be consistently visualized in many small and moderate sized tortoises is the jugular vein andcarotid artery (Jacobson et al., 1992). The major problem encountered when sampling from thesevessels is that manual extension and restraint of the head of the tortoise beyond the margins of theplastron is required, which at times may be difficult or impossible. One method is to push in orlightly touch the rear limbs, which usually causes the tortoise to extend its head from the shell,and allows the sampler to restrain the tortoise's head. Once grasped, the head is pulled out withone hand, and while sitting, the sampler positions the tortoise between the knees, with thetortoise's head pointing toward the sampler's body. The jugular vein and carotid artery are welldeveloped on both right and left sides of the neck. Once the head is extended, the jugular canoften be seen as a bulge through the cervical skin, coursing caudal from the level of the tympanicmembrane to the base of the neck. The carotid artery is deeper and more difficult to visualize andis located ventral and parallel to the jugular vein. Once either vessel is identified, the skin over thepuncture site should be cleaned with 70% ethanol and a 23 or 25 gauge butterfly catheter can beused for obtaining the sample. With the cap removed from the end of the tube, blood will flowdown the tube once the needle is inserted into the vessel. The technique described above can beused in Mediterranean tortoises (Testudo
spp.), but is not always successful (E. Jacobson, pers.
Crocodilians (crocodiles, alligators, gharial)
Blood samples can be obtained from the supravertebral vessel located caudal to the
occiput and immediately dorsal to the spinal cord (Olson et al., 1975). The skin behind theocciput is cleansed with an organic iodine solution and 70% ethanol. A 3.75-cm, 22- or 23-gaugeneedle is inserted through the skin in the midline directly behind the occiput and is slowlyadvanced in a perpendicular direction. As the needle is advanced, gentle pressure is placed on theplunger. If the needle is passed too deep, the spinal cord will be pithed. Other sites of bloodcollection that are commonly used include the heart (via cardiocentesis) and ventral coccygealvein (Jacobson, 1984). The heart is located in the ventral midline, approximately 11 scale rowsbehind the forelimbs. In collecting blood from the coccygeal vein, the crocodilian is placed indorsal recumbency and the needle is inserted through the skin toward the caudal vertebrae.
Blood samples can be obtained from several sites. In large lizards, blood is easily obtained
from the ventral tail vein (Esra et al., 1975). Toenails can be clipped, and blood can be obtainedin a microcapillary tube (Samour et al., 1984). Microcapillary tubes also can be used to obtainblood samples from the orbital sinus (LaPointe and Jacobson, 1974), in a similar fashion forcollecting blood from mice.
Blood samples can be obtained from a variety of sites, including the palatine veins, ventral
tail vein, and via cardiocentesis (Olson et al., 1975; Samour et al., 1984). Some prefer heartpuncture to other methods, and as long as the heart is not excessively traumatized with multipleattempts at sampling, the procedure is safe and effective. This method should be limited to thosesnakes over 300 grams (Jackson, 1981). Essentially, the heart is located either directly by seeingit beating through ventral scales or by palpation. The heart is relatively moveable within thecoelomic cavity and is easy to move manually several scale rows both cranially and caudally.
Once the heart is located, it is stabilized by placing a thumb at its apex and forefinger at its base.
A 23- or 25-gauge needle attached to a 3- to 6-ml syringe is advanced under a ventral scale,starting at the apex and aiming toward the base. With gentle suction, a sample can be obtained.
Sometimes a clear fluid is withdrawn, representing the pericardial fluid. In such cases, the needleshould be withdrawn, a new syringe and needle secured, and the procedure repeated.
b. Tissue Sampling
Biopsies are often collected for diagnosing disease problems in amphibians (Wright, 2001c) andreptiles (Jacobson, 1992) and for biological studies such as DNA analyses. Procedures for thecollection and preparation of tissues for biochemical analysis have been extensively reviewed(Dessauer and Hafner, 1984; Dessauer et al., 1990; Jacobs and Heyer, 1994). When the samplesare collected for pathologic studies, multiple samples should be obtained for: 1) histopathology;2) electron microscopy; 3) cytology; and 4) microbiology. While biopsies of internal organs alsocan be collected, these are more often collected for disease studies rather than biologic studies.
The focus here will be skin biopsies.
Skin biopsies are easy to obtain in most species. Lidocaine can be used as a ring block
around the biopsy site. The portion of skin is elevated with a forceps and a fine surgical scissorshould be used for cutting the tissue. Wound glue or an appropriate suture material (see below)should be used to close the incision.
Of all the reptiles, chelonians present the greatest challenge for biopsy, especially when
lesions involve the shell. The reptile shell is a very hard biological structure that makes biopsysomewhat difficult. While under anesthesia, a rotary power saw (Dremel Mototool, Dremel Mfg.
Co., Racine, Wisconsin, USA) or bone trephine can be used to cut a wedge out of the shell.
Ideally, the biopsy should include normal tissue along with the diseased component. A pieceshould be fixed in neutral buffered 10% formalin for histopathological evaluation and a piece(with the most superficial contaminated portion removed) submitted for microbial culture. Forinitial attempts at isolation, the author often uses a broth such as tryptic soy broth. The defectcreated in the shell should be filled with calcium hydroxide dental paste (Root-Cal, EllmanInternational Mfg., Inc., Hewlett, New York, USA) and covered over with a methacrylate resin(Cyanoveneer, Ellman International Mfg., Inc., Hewlett, New York, USA). This technique isroutinely used in repair of the chelonian shell.
For biopsy of soft tissue, a 2% xylocaine block is satisfactory and can be infiltrated around
the biopsy site and the skin cleaned with 70% ethanol and allowed to dry. If the sample is to becultured, sterile saline is used instead of ethanol. If there is epidermal involvement, a biopsypunch can be used for collecting the sample. Following punch biopsy, the skin may require asingle suture for closure. Monofilament nylon is routinely used. If a subcutaneous mass ispresent, fine-needle aspiration can be performed. This is a rapid method, resulting in minimaltrauma to the patient. A 22-gauge needle is inserted into the mass and using a 6 to 12 ml syringe,full negative pressure is developed by quickly pulling back on the plunger. While maintainingnegative pressure on the syringe, the needle is moved throughout the mass in multiple planes.
After several passes through the mass, the plunger is released and the needle removed from themass. Negative pressure should not be applied to the plunger while removing the needle from themass since this will cause the sample to be aspirated into the syringe barrel. The specimen maythen be used in culture, cytological preparations, or histopathology (Jacobson, 1992).
A full-thickness biopsy may be difficult in those areas of the crocodilian integument having
osteoderms. Small crocodilians and most lizards can be manually restrained, whereas largecrocodilians and large monitors must be chemically immobilized. The area around the biopsy siteshould be infiltrated with 2% xylocaine and a full-thickness skin incision taken with a biopsypunch. As with chelonians, a minimum of two biopsies should be taken, one for histopathologyand one for microbiology. For microbial culture, the lesions can be ground in a sterile tissuegrinder and samples applied to appropriate media. This appears to be particularly important forisolation of fungi from reptile skin lesions. The author has had more success in isolating fungiwhen the skin is ground prior to attempts at isolation (E. Jacobson, pers. obs.).
Snakes are ideally suited for skin biopsy. Harmless species can be manually restrained,
and venomous species can be guided into a plexiglass tube for restraint or anesthesia. Affectedscales can be removed with a scalpel blade, or a sterilized one-hole paper punch can be utilized forbiopsies of individual scales. In such cases, the area around the lesion should be infiltrated with 2per cent xylocaine hydrochloride. In certain skin diseases, such as vesiculating skin lesions, largersamples may be needed. Similarly, for sampling subcutaneous masses, 2 per cent xylocaine can beinfiltrated subcutaneously around the mass. Once removed, the mass should be split into severalportions for various diagnostic evaluations.
5. Surgical Procedures
a. General principles.
With any invasive procedure, standard aseptic technique
(Powers, 1985) is essential. Amphibians, because of the structure of the skin, may need specialconsiderations. For instance, prior to preparation of the surgical site, a commercially availableartificial slime can be used to coat the skin (Wright, 2001c). While most liquids used inpreparation of the surgical site are not absorbed by reptile skin, amphibian skin is permeable, andwill be affected by most topical applications. Surgical scrubs and organic iodines, both solutionsand soaps, are routinely used in reptiles. But in amphibians they are toxic and therefore must beavoided. In amphibians the two most commonly used disinfectants are chlorhexidine and
benzalkonium chloride. While reptile skin is easily draped using either cloth drapes or plasticdrapes, amphibian skin needs special attention. First, since amphibians are often anesthetized in asolution of MS222, this chemical needs to be applied to the skin of amphibians throughout theprocedure. Aquatic amphibians having gills can be placed on a Styrofoam board with a section cutout for the head, and with the board floating in a solution of MS222, the head is placed in thesolution. Sterile cloth soaked in an anesthetic solution of MS222 can be used to cover the animal'sbody (except for the surgical site). A plastic drape then can be used to completely cover theamphibian.
1. Equipment. The surgical equipment used will depend on the size of the animal.
Standard surgical equipment can be used for mid-sized to large sized reptiles. Microsurgicalequipment, while expensive, is preferred for use in small reptiles and amphibians (Bennett, 2000a,2000; Wright, 2001c). If the procedure involves entering the coelomic cavity, retractors can beused to allow maximum visualization. Magnification is recommended for surgery on smallamphibians and reptiles and is achieved using binocular loupes and telescopes. Thesemagnification systems often come with a focal light source. Dexterity and manipulation of smallstructures are significantly improved when using this equipment.
2. Suture material. Suture material used in mammals and birds are used for similar
procedures in amphibians and reptiles. The size of the material used will depend upon the size ofthe patient. For most small amphibians and reptiles, the size will range from 4-0 to 8-0. Largersized material is available for large animals. Absorbable material such as polyglycolic acid andpolydioxanone, are absorbed at a slower rate compared to birds and mammals. If used for closingskin, it may have to be removed following healing of the incision site. Nylon is most commonlyused for closing skin. Gut suture material, especially chromic gut is to be avoided since it inducesa major inflammatory response in amphibians and reptiles (Jacobson et al., 1985; Bennett, 2000a).
. A wide variety of surgical procedures have been described for amphibians
(Wright, 2001c, Wright, 2000) and reptiles (Bennett, 2000a,b; Lock, 2000). In amphibians themost common minor surgical procedures are toe clipping or placement of subcutaneous orintracoelomic passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags (discussed below). Major surgicalprocedures in amphibians include placement of intravascular catheters for chronic blood sampling,laparoscopy, celiotomy, ovariectomy, and organ biopsy. In reptiles, toe clipping also has beenused for identification, particularly in lizards, and the same principles discussed below similarlyapply. PIT tags are also commonly used for identification. Radio transmitters (discussed below)have been surgically implanted in snakes, lizards, and crocodilians for tracking studies. These aregenerally implanted into the coelomic cavity following surgical procedures used for celiotomies ingeneral (Bennett, 2000b). Other surgical procedures include implantation of intravascularcatheters for chronic blood sampling and blood pressure recording studies, laparoscopy,endoscopy, ovariectomy, ovariosalpingohysterectomy (removal of the ovary,ovidict, shell gland, uterus), orchidectomy, and organ biopsy (Lock, 2000).
6. Animal Marking and Telemetry
Marking animals for laboratory or field recognition is an essential technique in biological research.
Important considerations in choosing a marking technique concern effects on behavior,
physiology, and survival of the animal. The utility of any technique varies with the species understudy; tissue-removal techniques may pose less long-term survival threat to some species thancertain tagging methods. Marking techniques for amphibians and reptiles have been reviewedextensively (Ferner, 1979; Dunham et al., 1988; Donnelly et al., 1994). Although field observationindicates that individual wild animals can survive extensive tissue damage from natural causes(Brunson, 1986), the effect of most tissue-removal marking techniques on survival and fitness isnot adequately known and is a topic worth investigating.
When choosing an acceptable marking technique, investigators must consider the nature
and duration of restraint, the amount of tissue affected, whether pain is momentary or prolonged,whether the animal will be at greater than normal predation risk, whether the animal's ability tomate is reduced, and whether the risk of infection is minimal. Careful testing of unproven markingtechniques on captive animals before use on free-ranging animals may reveal potential problemsand is recommended. It may be desirable to use redundant techniques to assure accuracy during astudy.
Passive Integrated Transponders. -
Passive integrated transponders (or PIT tags) represent a recent advance in animal marking
techniques (Camper and Dixon, 1988). The tag itself is a small cylinder that can be injected into
the animal either subcutaneously or intraperitoneally. The tags are read by a scanning device that
provides electromagnetic energy to the tag, which then reflects a unique series of numbers and/or
letters. The injection of the tag is a relatively simple procedure, however, aseptic procedures are
needed. Surgical glue can be used to cover the site where the trochar (used for insertion of the
PIT tag) is inserted through the skin. Studies that assess the impact of PIT tags on behavior,
growth and survival are rare, however, available data suggests no strong evidence for lasting
detrimental effects in frogs (Brown, 1997), salamanders (Ott and Scott, 1999) or snakes (Keck,
1994; Jemison et al. 1995). In some cases, PIT tags are not retained as reliably as other marking
techniques (Germano and Williams, 1993; Ott and Scott, 1999), and the high cost of individual
tags (approximately $5.00 each) and tag readers may render this technique uneconomical for
some research programs. In addition, although tags are small, they are clearly inappropriate for
Toe Clipping. - Toe clipping, a ubiquitous technique (Dunham et al., 1988), may be used for
general marking of free-ranging animals when toe removal is not judged (by observation of
captives or of a closely-related species) to impair the normal activities of the marked animal. Toes
essential to animals for activities such as burrowing, climbing, amplexus, or nest excavation,
should never be removed. Removal of more than two non-adjacent toes per foot should be
avoided. If behavior or survival of the animal is likely to be seriously impaired, alternate marking
techniques should be employed. Aseptic technique should be maintained to avoid infection.
Surgical equipment needs to be disinfected prior to each animal being clipped. If a scissor is used,
the instrument can be dipped in alcohol and flamed. The impact of toe clipping on survival of
marked amphibians has been discussed (Golay and Durrer, 1994; Reaser, 1995). Clarke (1972)
reported adverse effects of toe-clipping on survival of Bufo woodhousei
. Further work is needed
to determine the impact that toe clipping may have on differential mortality, growth, or
reproduction. However, the high incidence of natural toe loss among small lizards suggests that
for small species at least, toe clipping, when prudently applied, may result in only minimal impact.
The most important point to realize is that toe clipping is potentially a painful procedure and canresult in infection if aseptic procedures are not followed.
Scale Clipping / Branding. - Removal of subcaudal or ventral scutes according to a
standardized numerical code provides a good permanent marking system for snakes, which does
not appear to increase mortality or impair locomotion (Blanchard and Finster, 1933). The scute is
removed with small surgical scissors, or by rapid cauterization; healing usually is rapid, and
infection is rare. Again, aseptic technique should be employed. Electrocauterization of a number
or letter on the skin, in which deep layers of skin are cauterized to prevent regeneration, is
comparable. Brand marks may not be visible in amphibians after a few months. The use of a local
anesthetic (aerosols containing benzocaine, such as Cetacaine, may be applied) with branding or
electrocauterization is complicated. Permeable skin of amphibians renders all topical applications
risky. Conversely, the less permeable skin of reptiles may reduce the effectiveness of topical
Tattoos and Dye Markers. - Tattooing has been used with success on both amphibians and
reptiles. Two potential problems should be resolved prior to tattooing: 1) selection of a dye which
will contrast with the normal skin pigmentation; and 2) loss of legibility due to diffusion or
ultraviolet degradation of the dye. Paint should not be used to mark the moist and permeable skin
of amphibians. Reptile skin permeability is quite variable, and paint or paint solvents may be
absorbed and cause death of the animal. Paints with non-toxic pigments, bases, and solvents must
be used. When toxicity is unknown, laboratory trials, even if limited, should be done before field
use. Very tenacious paints may, if applied across shell sutures, severely distort ' the normal shell
growth of turtles, especially sub-adults. Paint should not be applied to sutures of turtle shells.
Two procedures for tagging amphibians for individual identification have recently been evaluated,
or applied to large-scale field studies. Both procedures involve marking different regions of the
body of amphibians with colored dyes; the combination of location and color provides a large
number of potential unique identifiers. Of these, the most promising seems to be visible implant
fluorescent elastomers (VIE) that are injected sub-cutaneously and either visualized with the
naked eye (in lighter skinned animals) or with a black light that causes the dyes to fluoresce
(Anholt and Negovetic, 1998; Jung et al., 2000; Nauwelaerts et al., 2000). A second method uses
pressurized application of inert fluorescent powder (Nishikawa and Service, 1988; Schlaepfer,
1998). Both methods have been used successfully to mark caudates and anurans.
Banding and Tagging. - The size, shape and placement of tags should be appropriate to permit
normal behavior of the animal marked. Bands and tags projecting from the body may produce
physical impairment or enhance the risk of entanglement in undergrowth or aquatic cover.
Brightly colored tags also may compromise an animal's camouflage. Raney and Lachner (1947)
documented growth cessation in jaw-tagged toads. Graham (1986) cautioned that Petersen discs
may cause mortality when used on freshwater turtles; they therefore must be used with great care
in this application. Their use on marine turtles less exposed to the hazards cited by Graham may
be less risky. Colored mylar ribbon tags 2-5 cm long may prove an acceptable alternative for
freshwater turtles. Colored discs and tags conceivably could function as predator attractants.
Shell Marking. - In most species of turtles, the bony shell can be marked by cutting notches or
small holes in the marginal scutes of the carapace. In addition, disc-type tags and clamp-on
ear-type tags (see cautionary remarks above) have been applied to those soft-shelled turtles that
lack bony scutes and to sea turtles.
Radioisotopes. - The use of radioisotopes as markers in natural systems is valuable, and may be
the only means of adequately gathering data on movements of very small species; the technique,
however, should be undertaken with caution. Special training and precautions are required of
researchers by federal and, frequently, state law (Code of Federal Regulations, 1984). A license,
which specifies safety procedures for laboratory use, is required for release of isotopes into
natural systems and for disposal of waste material. The pros and cons of using strong emitters
must be assessed in terms of possible deleterious effects on the animal, to predators that might
ingest isotope-labeled animals, and potential hazard to the public.
Radiotelemetry is a specialized form of animal marking, and the same general caveats apply.
Transmission is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, and investigators shouldinquire about the availability of the frequencies they plan to use. General telemetry techniques aresummarized in (Amlaner and MacDonald, 1980), and new ones become available continually. Ingeneral, each group of organisms poses unique problems for transmitter attachment or surgicalimplantation. For example, the body form of lizards limits most telemetry to species of relativelylarge size. However, the body form of snakes facilitates telemetry by being elongate (which allowssubcutaneous extension of an antenna), by usually being in contact with the substrate (whichprovides additional support for the transmitter), and by being distensible to a larger degree (thelarge meals relative to body size that snakes ingest are accommodated by additional room in thebody cavity) than in most lizards. Some turtles, on the other hand, may require externalattachment of transmitters due to limited access to the peritoneal cavity through limb openings inthe shell. In addition the probability of post-surgery infection may depend on species andenvironment. For example, aquatic or semi-aquatic species may pose greater infection risk thanterrestrial species. Although there are several publications regarding surgical techniques fortransmitter implantation in snakes (Reinert and Cundall 1982; Weatherhead and Anderka, 1984;Hardy and Greene, 1999), and lizards (Wang and Adolph, 1995), the best source of informationfor any particular species probably lies with specific researchers that have relevant experience. Asdiscussed above under surgical techniques, aseptic but not necessarily sterile procedures should beemployed. It is reasonable for the local IACUC to require evidence of research into species-specific techniques, or taxon-specific training from experienced individuals.
There are differences of opinion regarding maximum recommended ratios for transmitter
weight to animal weight. Most agreement seems to settle around a maximum of 10%, and most ofthis weight will be battery where long transmitter life is necessary; in practice, componentminiaturization allows ratios of about 6% to 1% for many applications with larger animals.
Smaller (and hence shorter-lived) batteries presently are the only means of achieving these ratioswith small animals. Researchers intending to use radiotelemetry on amphibian or reptilian speciesshould consider the following guidelines and comments:
1. Force-Fed Transmitters. - Force-fed packages, most commonly used in snakes, should besmall enough to pass through the gut without greatly impairing the passage of food. Force-fed orimplanted packages should be coated with an impervious, biologically inert material before use.
Force-fed packages should not be secured within the animal by suturing the gut. If secured withinthe animal via body-band, the band should be removed periodically to allow resumption offeeding.
2. Implanted Transmitters. - The size and placement of implanted transmitters should notinterfere with the function(s) of the organs surrounding them or with normal behavior. Forintracoelomic or subcutaneous implants, suturing the transmitter package in place may benecessary to prevent its movement or interference with vital organs. Implants should be done inaseptic conditions.
3. Externally Attached Transmitters. - Radiotransmitter attachment to small reptiles (such aslizards) can also be achieved by means of a harness constructed to fit the study species (Fisher andMuth, 1995). In the case of externally mounted radiotransmitters, care should be taken to ensurethat the transmitter poses no risk of entanglement (such as in arboreal or fossorial species).
Consideration must be given to the effect of the package on behavioral interactions betweentagged animals and other individuals. For example, the transmitter should neither conceal norenhance the appearance of behaviorally important dorsal crests or gular flaps. Transmitterattachments that can be expected to greatly impair reproduction, locomotion or other normalactivity of the animal should be avoided.
Most amphibians and reptiles, including adults, may continue to grow throughout life. Externaltransmitters must be removed or designed to be lost after a time, or they may constrict or irritatethe animals. External transmitters can be attached to crocodilians and turtles by collars, clamps, oradhesives. Rigid adhesives and paints extensively applied across sutures of shells of young turtlesmay impair normal growth if left in place over several years. Special consideration must be givento soft-shelled species to prevent abrasion (Eckert and Eckert, 1986).
Euthanasia is the act of bringing about death in the most humane way as possible. The
AVMA Panel on Euthanasia (AVMA, 2001) was expanded over the previous report to includepoikilothermic vertebrates. Additional information on euthanasia of amphibians and reptiles can befound elsewhere (Cooper et al., 1989). Adult amphibians (A) and reptiles (R) may be painlesslykilled by use of a chemical anesthetic such as sodium pentobarbitol (R), hydrous chlorobutanol(A), MS-222 (A) (Tricaine methane sulfonate, marketed as Finquel(tm) by Ayerst, Inc.),urethane-ethyl-carbamate (A) (referred to hereafter as urethane), 10% ethanol (A) or similaranesthetics. In addition, amphibians can be euthanized by ventral application of Oragel, a 20%benzocaine gel, available over the counter world-wide (Chen and Combs, 1999). The euthanasiaagent T-61 (National Laboratories) is very effective on reptiles (J. Johnson, pers. comm.), but isno longer commercially available in the U.S. (AVMA, 2001). Use of such chemicals requires littleadditional time and effort, adds little to the bulk or weight of collecting equipment, and allows forpreparation of better quality specimens. Urethane is carcinogenic, and caution should be observedwith its use and field disposal. Other anesthetics may also be acceptable, especially since new
agents are frequently developed. Gunshot is an acceptable and often necessary collectingtechnique, and is also recognized for euthanasia (AVMA, 2001; Smith, 1986). The euthanasiaprocedure selected will depend upon the disposition of the carcass. For instance, whileintracoelomic barbiturates are commonly used in the euthanasia of amphibians and reptiles, thesechemicals are very destructive to tissues. If histologic studies of internal organs are to beconducted, then intracoelomic injection of barbiturates should be avoided. When specialcircumstances require that specimens (very small or larval animals, for example) be formalin-fixedwithout prior anesthetic killing, prior light anesthetization with an anesthetic such as MS-222 isrecommended (Fowler, 1986).
8. Museum Specimens
The collection of samples for museum preparation from natural populations is critical to: 1)
understanding the biology of animals throughout their ranges and over time; 2) recording the
biotic diversity, over time and/or in different habitats; and 3) establishing and maintaining
taxonomic reference material essential to understanding the evolution and phylogenetic
relationships of amphibians and reptiles. The number of specimens collected should be kept to the
minimum the investigator determines necessary to accomplish the goal of a study. Some studies
(e.g., diversity over geographic range or delineation of variation of new species) require relatively
large samples (Reynolds et al., 1994).
Museum Specimens and Other Killed Specimens. - The collection of live animals and theirpreparation as museum specimens is necessary for research and teaching activities in SystematicZoology. Such collections should further our understanding of these animals in their natural stateand do not serve merely as tools for teaching specimen preparation techniques. Herpetologicalcollecting techniques and representative practices of collection management have been compiled(Simmons, 2002), as have references to field techniques (Thomas, 1977). Whenever amphibiansor reptiles are collected for museum deposition, specimens should be fixed and preservedaccording to accepted methods (McDiarmid, 1994; Jacobs and Heyer, 1994; Simmons, 2002) toassure the maximum utility of each animal and to minimize the need for duplicate collecting. Inprinciple, each animal collected should serve as a source of information on many levels oforganization from behavior to DNA sequence. Whenever practical, blood and other tissues shouldbe collected for karyotypic and molecular study prior to formalin fixation of the specimen.
Formalin fixation of dead specimens is acceptable practice; however, killing
unanesthetized specimens by immersion in a formalin solution is unacceptable, unless justified forscientific reasons. Formalin immersion of unanesthetized animals may, however, be the only wayto adequately fix certain details of morphology critical to the successful completion of research.
V. Housing and Maintenance
Because the biological needs of each species and the nature of individual projects vary widely,
only the most general recommendations on housing wild reptiles and amphibians can be made.
When dealing with unfamiliar species, testing and comparing several methods of housing to find
the method most appropriate for the needs of the animal and the purposes of the study may be
necessary. Restraint and ease of maintenance by animal keepers should not be the prime
determinant of housing conditions; however, many times researchers can infer from knowledge of
the biology of their animals, what the requirements are for a particular species to thrive. Suchinformation should be incorporated whenever possible
Normal field and laboratory maintenance should incorporate, as far as possible, those
aspects of natural habitat deemed important to the survival and well-being of the animal.
Adequacy of maintenance can be judged, relative to the natural environment, by monitoring acombination of factors such as changes in growth and weight, survival rates, breeding success,activity levels, general behavior, and appearance. Consideration should be given to providing anenvironment that includes features such as natural materials, refuges, perches, and water baths.
Natural foods should be duplicated as closely as possible, as should natural light and temperatureconditions unless alterations of these are factors under investigation.
Frequency of cage cleaning should represent a compromise between the level of
cleanliness necessary to prevent disease, and the amount of stress imposed by frequent handlingand exposure to unfamiliar surroundings and bedding. Applied knowledge of animal ethology canassist the investigator to provide optimum care and housing.
1. General Considerations
Husbandry has been discussed at length for both amphibians and reptiles (Nace et al. 1974;
Frye, 1991; Pough, 1992; Schaeffer et al., 1992; Greene, 1996; Wright and Whitaker, 2001b;Zimmerman 1986). A particularly excellent resource, which provides taxon-specific (e.g.
salamanders, frogs, crocodilians, lizards, snakes and turtles) information on housing andmaintenance can be found in Schaeffer et al. (1992). Our goal is not to reiterate the detail foundin these other sources, but rather to summarize major considerations, and provide access torelevant literature for both researchers and local IACUC. What follows is a general synthesis ofinformation found in the references cited above.
The diversity of reptiles and amphibians makes it impractical to provide strict
recommendations for housing and maintenance. It is always in the best interest of the principalinvestigator to ensure the welfare of animals in their care. Failure to do so will likely result inunreliable experimental or observational results. It is reasonable for the local IACUC to requireevidence that husbandry protocols for any particular species are appropriate to that species.
Likewise, under most circumstances, the principal investigator is usually an authority on theproper care of the focal species, and the IACUC should be receptive to well supported deviationsfrom what might be considered standard procedures for other research organisms.
As Pough (1992) points out, reptiles and amphibians require special considerations
because of their diversity and ectothermy. The latter of these two features sets reptiles andamphibians apart from more traditional endothermic organisms (mammals and birds) used inbiomedical or agricultural research. As ectotherms, reptiles and amphibians are relatively lowenergy systems with minimal gas exchange requirements, and therefore, they can usually be fedinfrequently and housed at relatively high density in rooms with fewer air changes per unit time.
There are several physical and biological factors that must be considered when housing and caringfor reptiles and amphibians, including; temperature, light, humidity, availability of water, refuges,behavioral or social interactions, cage substrates, and nutrition. Some attention should be paid toeach of these factors to ensure that the requirements for physical, social, and physiologicalfunction are met. Research on amphibians and reptiles may require both short-term (days toweeks) and/or long-term (months to years) confinement, and the degree to which conditions mustbe maintained will vary depending on duration.
2. Short-term housing
Many research programs require the capture of amphibians and reptiles from the field and
transportation to field stations, laboratories, or other facilities. In many cases, animals will be heldfor short periods while they are marked and measured, and may have tissue samples collected, orminor surgical procedures such as radio transmitter implantation. Housing during these shortperiods of captivity can focus specifically on minimal requirements for short-term survival,including temperature, moisture and light conditions. Specifically, these three parameters shouldbe maintained within ranges that facilitate the short-term comfort and well-being of the species inquestion.
Animals collected in the field should be confined and transported in a way that does not
compromise them from extremes of temperature, moisture, or overcrowding. Some speciesshould be contained independently of others to minimize negative interactions such as predationor disease vectoring.
b. Temporary field site housing
If manipulation of parameters of the natural environment (daylength, etc.) is not part of
the research protocol, field housing for wild vertebrates being held for more extended periods oftime (e.g. weeks) should approximate natural conditions as closely as possible, while adhering toappropriate standards of care (e.g., Nace et al., 1974; National Institutes of Health Guide forGrants and Contracts, 1985a, 1985b; Frye, 1991; Schaeffer et al., 1992). Caging and maintenanceshould provide for the safety and well-being of the animal, while adequately allowing for theobjectives of the study.
3. Long-term and colony housing
Many research programs require the long-term housing, and possibly the propagation ofamphibians and reptiles in captivity. Unlike temporary housing, long-term captivity requiresgreater attention to details that promote the health and well being of research animals.
a. Caging and maintenance
Recommendations for cage characteristics have been discussed at length for both
amphibians (Nace et al., 1974) and reptiles (Frye, 1991; Pough, 1992; Schaeffer et al., 1992). Ingeneral, containers should be large enough to promote comfort and normal growth, as well asfacilitate the provision of other requirements listed below. Most researchers that utilize reptilesand amphibians will work with wild animals that are prone to escape. Cages should be chosen ordesigned to be escape-proof for the species under consideration. This is a crucial considerationand responsibility for principal investigators that conduct research on venomous or otherwisedangerous species. We recommend locking containers that do not rely on weighted lids or otherhastily constructed alternatives. Cages should be constructed of materials that do not absorb
water so that they can be easily cleaned, disinfected and dried when appropriate. Likewise,caging materials should not present hazards such as rough edges or surfaces that can damageanimals as they search for escape routes. Cages for dangerous species should be transparent sothat the position of the animal can be visually assessed.
Schedules of cage cleaning should represent a tradeoff between cleanliness and
disturbance. In some cases, small amounts of fecal material and pheromones deposited in thecage may be beneficial to behavior and stress levels (reviewed in Pough 1992; and taxon-specificchapters in Schaeffer et al., 1992, Greene, 1996).
b. Thermal requirements
Because of their ectothermic nature, thermal considerations are paramount to the health
and well-being of amphibians and reptiles (Frye, 1991; Pough, 1992). Taxon-specific ranges ofpreferred temperature can be obtained from primary literature (reviewed in Frye, 1991; Pough,1992). Frye (1991) provides general guidelines for estimating preferred temperature ranges basedon characteristics of natural habitat. Every effort should be made to ensure that cagingenvironment provides thermal conditions that enhance behavioral and physiological function.
Pough (1992) recommends cage designs that provide thermal gradients and ample opportunity foranimals to behaviorally thermoregulate by choosing from diverse microenvironments. Suchcaging arrangements may require heat lamps or tapes, and a diversity of perch and retreat sites.
For some larger or more eurythermic species, providing such a diversity of thermal microhabitatsmay be both unnecessary and/or impractical. In such circumstances, adequate control over roomtemperature can be substituted. Most sources recommend that captive reptiles and amphibians besubjected to thermal cycles around the “preferred” temperature. Where possible, such cyclesshould be based on natural thermal variation during the normal active season of the organism(provided that natural variation does not exceed the critical thermal limits of the animal).
Photoperiod is another important factor that must be considered for captive reptiles and
amphibians. Many reptiles obtain physiological cues from light:dark cycles. In addition, manyspecies (especially lizards, and some amphibians), but not all (e.g., most snakes) require anultraviolet light source for normal calcium metabolism and Vitamin D synthesis (reviewed inPough, 1992). Principal investigators should research their organisms to determine if UV or full-spectrum lighting is required (reviewed by Pough, 1992). Constant light (or dark) environmentsshould be avoided because they may induce stress (Frye, 1991).
d. Air changes and humidity
As previously indicated, and reviewed in detail by Pough (1992), ectotherms are generally small,have low metabolic rates, and therefore, low rates of gas exchange and waste production. Thus,mammalian or avian standards for room air changes are generally excessive for reptiles andamphibians. In addition, high humidity is necessary for some species; a condition that is morepractical and economical with lower air turnover rates (Pough, 1992), and which may requirevirtually sealed containers for some amphibians (Jaeger, 1992). Humidity requirements should be
considered on a case-by-case basis. It is reasonable for the IACUC to request references thatrecommend specific humidity guidelines for particular taxonomic groups.
e. Food and water
General nutritional requirements (e.g., herbivory, omnivory, insectivory, carnivory) are well-known for most amphibians and reptiles (Pough, 1992; Schaeffer et al., 1992). For particularspecies, there is often information available in the primary literature regarding natural diets.
Captive diets should mimic natural diets to the closest extent possible, but this is often difficultand substitute foods must be used. Amphibians and reptiles should be fed appropriate foods onschedules that maintain normal growth and/or maintenance depending on the needs of specificstudies. Because of their low energy requirements, ectotherms do not usually need frequentfeedings, at least in comparison to mammals and birds. The key criteria for feeding schedulesshould be maintenance of weight and general health. Some reptiles and amphibians may requirevitamin supplements (reviewed in Pough, 1992).
Water requirements are also variable and species-specific. Water should be provided with
knowledge of a species natural history as a guide (Frye, 1991; Pough, 1992; Greene, 1996). Formost species, water bowls should be large enough to facilitate full-body soaking should the animalso desire. Water bowls should be kept full to provide ad libitum
access (subject to needs ofexperimental design). For some species with high humidity requirements, or that refuse to drinkfrom open water bowls, frequent misting may be required (Frye, 1991; Pough, 1992; Greene,1996).
Appropriate cage substrates will again vary by organism, and specific recommendations
for broad taxonomic groups can be found in Schaeffer et al. (1992). Several undesirablesubstrates have been identified, including ground corncobs, kitty litter, pine shavings (all of whichswell when ingested), and cedar shavings (which have toxic properties, reviewed in Pough, 1992).
Attractive qualities of cage substrates include absorbancy, non-toxicity, and resistance to bacterialgrowth. Substrates that may cause intestinal blockage if ingested should be avoided (Frye, 1991).
Some substrates also lend themselves to greater ease of cleaning or replacement (e.g. newsprint,butcher paper, artificial turf).
g. Other considerations
For many species, and especially among lizards (Greenberg, 1992), social environment
may play an important role in health and well-being. In some cases, territorial individuals may dobetter when housed individually (e.g., when dominance hierarchies form, some individuals may beinjured or excluded from access to food, water, or basking sites), whereas in others, socialinteractions may enhance an individuals environment (reviewed in Pough, 1992). For species thatcommunicate chemically, efforts should be made to minimize residual pheromones that may havebeen left by previous cage occupants, or that may be transferred by handling (Jaeger, 1992;Pough, 1992). We recommend that the degree of allowed social interactions be considered on a
case-by-case basis, while considering the aims of the study and well-being of the animals. Forsome animals, especially when the researcher seeks to support a reproductive colony, theinduction of artificial hibernation may be beneficial and should be considered (reviewed in Frye,1991).
VI. Disposition of ill or dead animals during the course of study
Diagnosis of specific health problems should be attempted whenever a
research animal shows signs of illness. The greatest challenges are in those very small and verylarge reptiles, and also venomous species. The repertoire of diagnostic techniques is particularlylimited in small reptiles and amphibians such as small geckos and dart frogs. Where colonies ofamphibians or reptiles are affected, one or more ill animals should be killed for completepostmortem evaluation including histopathology. Where this is not practical or possible, then avariety of antemortem evaluations can be used to try and elucidate the problem. A laboratoryanimal veterinarian or clinician with experience in amphibian and reptile medicine should beconsulted. The American Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians is a professionalorganization having members with this experience and interest (see: http://www.arav.org/).
Diagnostic techniques include blood evaluations (complete blood counts and plasma biochemicalevaluations), imaging (radiology, CAT Scan, MRI, ultrasound), endoscopy/laparoscopy, microbialcultures, fecal examinations, and histologic examination of biopsy specimens.
Specific treatment will depend upon diagnostic findings and/or overall
assessment by the clinician. A veterinary clinician or laboratory animal veterinarian should beconsulted for recommendations. Treatment is both an art and a science. The art is selection of atreatment regime prior to having all diagnostic test results. This will be dependent upon pastexperiences of the clinician. The science entails selecting the most appropriate diagnostic tests andthen either persisting with or changing the current treatment regime. Treatment may entail local,oral and perenteral antimicrobials, parasiticides, fluid administration, and use of drugs to relievepain. The immune system of reptiles appears to be temperature dependent so maintaining the illanimal at an ideal temperature is imperative. More detailed information on various treatments canbe found elsewhere (Klingenberg, 1966; Jacobson, 1999; Wright and Whitaker, 2001a).
– Scientifically valuable specimens should be preserved for museum
donation, and necropsy may destroy the utility of a specimen. Necropsy, however, may beindispensable for assessing cause of death when such information is critical. Necropsy guides foramphibians (Nichols, 2001) and reptiles (Jacobson, 1978) are available. Necropsies start on theoutside and move internally in a methodical manner. The exterior of the animal should bethoroughly examined, describing all gross abnormalities. Drawings of the animal, both dorsallyand ventrally, should be used to indicate location of lesions. Wounds to the integument should benoted. Any other changes such as swellings to joint spaces of long bones and cutaneous orsubcutaneous masses are recorded. Samples of all significant lesions should be collected forhistopathology. Samples are placed in neutral buffered 10% formalin (NBF). NBF will onlypenetrate 6 mm in 24 hr, so make sure tissues are thin enough to allow adequate fixation. TheNBF to tissue volume ratio should be 10:1. If hard tissue such as long bone is collected, it shouldbe fixed in a container separate from the soft tissues to allow adequate penetration and fixation.
The overall appearance of the animal will dictate whether to continue with a full necropsy.
If the animal is in an advanced state of postmortem change, such as being bloated with gas, skinor discolored, collection of tissues for histopathologic evaluation will be unrewarding.
A complete necropsy should include collection and archiving of fixed (neutral buffered
10% formalin) and frozen tissue (at least -70 C) samples from all tissues, so that materials areavailable for retrospective studies and research (e.g., toxin analysis, nutrient analysis, virusisolation, transmission studies, immunodiagnostic and molecular diagnostic tests). Normal tissuespecimens should be saved in addition to obvious lesions. Specimens from lesions should berepresentative of the entire lesion and large enough to include adjacent normal tissue. This notonly facilitates comparison of pathologic tissue with normal but often the active process and theprimary etiologic agent are found at the edges of a lesion.
VII. Disposition of living healthy animals following study
Upon completion of short-term studies, some researchers may wish to release field-trapped
specimens whenever this is practical and ecologically appropriate. However, repatriation of
research animals into the wild is controversial (Pough, 1992) and should probably be limited to
field-oriented studies with special circumstances (see below). Captive animals that cannot be
released should be disposed of properly, either by distribution to colleagues for further study or
educational purposes, or by preservation and deposition as teaching or voucher specimens in
research collections. Obviously, some specimens will be deposited as voucher specimens in an
appropriate reference collection to document that the identification was appropriate and to
provide a basis for comparison among studies (Reynolds et al., 1994).
In both the field and laboratory, the investigator must be careful to ensure that animals subjected
to euthanasia procedure are dead before disposal. In those rare instances where specimens are
unacceptable for deposition as vouchers or teaching purposes, disposal of carcasses must be in
accordance with acceptable practices as required by applicable regulations. Animals containing
administered toxic substances or drugs (including euthanasia agents like T-61 or MS-222) must
not be disposed of in areas where they may become part of the natural food web.
A standard operating procedure for the disposal of animal carcasses from medical or
agricultural studies is incineration. In many cases carcasses of amphibians and reptiles used inresearch retain scientific or educational value, and incineration may be inappropriate. Thedecision to utilize incineration as a means of disposal should be considered on a case-by-casebasis.
b. Donation to teaching or museum collections
When possible, specimens that retain scientific or educational value should be properly
preserved (Simmons, 2002) and donated to teaching or museum collections.
2. Living animals
In cases where animals are not sacrificed as a study endpoint, and they are pathogen-free and ingood health, there are several options to consider for disposition. Consistent with the concept ofminimizing ecological impact and obtaining maximum use out of living organisms, and especiallythose that were captured from field populations, transfer to other studies, adoption by zoos,museums, or individuals, and/or repatriation into the wild should be considered.
a. Transfer to other studies
In many cases, at the completion of studies, animals retain value for continued research.
The IACUC should be receptive to the transfer of healthy valuable organisms both within andbetween institutions for the purposes of continued study. This is especially important from thestandpoint of reducing the need to collect animals from the wild. Such transfers should beaccompanied by full documentation and should adhere to applicable local, State and National lawsgoverning possession and transfer of reptiles and amphibians. Appropriate quarantines should beapplied (Jacobson, 1993; Woodford, 2001).
In many cases, healthy animals retain significant educational value and can be
constructively donated for adoption by zoos, museums, and even private individuals that supporteducational or captive breeding programs.
c. Repatriation into the wild
Repatriation of research animals into the wild is a controversial issue. Pough (1992)
argues that release of reptiles and amphibians held in captivity “.should be prohibited in almostall cases”, due to risk of pathogen introduction, and potential effects on natural gene pools.
However, under some circumstances, especially with respect to ecological studies that involveintegrated laboratory and field components, repatriation of captive animals may be a necessaryelement to a successful research program. Release of research animals needs to be considered andincorporated into the design of the study from its inception. Releases should be limited to cases ofshort-term captivity where healthy animals are released at their capture location. Furthermore,published protocols for planned releases should be followed (Jacobson, 1993; Woodford, 2001).
As a general rule, field-trapped animals should be released only:
(i) If release is not specifically prohibited by national, state, or local law.
(ii) If they are currently healthy and have been held in isolation from exotic species and
other research collections. Animals returned to the wild should never be in contactwith other species, especially exotics. Two major pathogens in amphibians, chytridfungi and ranavirus may have been introduced into wild populations by humans(Daszak et al., 1999). Relatively few infectious diseases have been studied in wildamphibians and reptiles and the exact origin of these pathogens is unknown.
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