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  • Rights: The University of Waikato
    Published 3 November 2009 Referencing Hub media

    Associate Professor Alison Cree, from the University of Otago, talks about a new technique that uses infrared radiation to measure the temperature of geckos and other reptiles.

    Point of interest
    The standard method used to take a reptile’s temperature is much more hands on. First, the scientist captures the individual and holds it in their hand. A small probe is then inserted into the cloaca (the opening for all waste products), and this is connected by a small wire to a unit that displays the temperature. It is very important to record the temperature quickly before your hand temperature alters the temperature of the reptile.

    Discuss some of the advantages of the new method.


    A new method that we have been looking at and testing in the laboratory for taking temperatures is, we think, much better for the animals because you don’t have to capture them and so, presumably, they are less disturbed by it.

    And this involves using an infrared thermometer. It’s what we call a non-contact thermometer because it doesn’t have to physically contact the animal. It’s got a sensor in it that detects the infrared radiation coming from the animal’s surface and gives us a measure of the skin temperature of the animal, and for a small lizard, skin temperature is much the same as the internal core temperature.

    And so we can just point the infrared thermometer at the animal, and we can see using a laser pointer where it is shining. And then we can see on the display that the infrared radiation is converted into a temperature measurement on the display. So without touching the animal, we can get a measure of its body temperature.

    The research could be important, in a practical sense, from a conservation perspective. If people find a need to breed geckos in captivity for producing offspring to release into new sites, then it is really important to know how the conditions you are providing are affecting the quality of the offspring you produce. So you would want to know what kind of temperatures to give pregnant females to make healthy babies. And so with the information we are getting, we will be able to provide that information.

    There isn’t a critical need to do that right now for this species we are working with, but we are using it as a model to get basic information that could be used that way in the future if there was an urgent need to do it.

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