When winter arrives in Chicago, the tropical reptiles in the Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House go about business as usual in exhibits that remain steamy throughout the year. But temperate species, both here at Lincoln Park Zoo and throughout the Midwest, undergo brumation—reptile hibernation.
Reptiles depend on environmental heat sources to drive their metabolism. When the temperatures get cold they go into a dormant state slowing down their metabolism until spring arrives.
Brumation is not just a survival tactic. For some species winter cooling is required for successful reproduction, as it stimulates sperm production in males and helps prepare females for ovulation in the spring. Starting this month off exhibit, we will be brumating eastern massasauga rattlesnakes, shingleback skinks, three-toed box turtles and smooth green snakes.
And next summer, we hope to have lots of little reptiles to blog about.
Diane Mulkerin, Curator of Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House