Reptile Research and Studies

Research and studies have revealed that reptiles exhibit cognitive and emotional abilities. These findings could help zoos better provide for their welfare needs. They also have a role to play in helping people to understand that reptiles can suffer, as they are often mistreated in captivity.


Studies of indicative behaviours can help to position reptiles alongside more popular mammalian species, and demonstrate that they can experience pain and distress. Their important roles in seed dispersal and urban ecosystems can also maintain green spaces, as well as control pest animals in human-dominated environments.

Research and study of reptiles

Reptiles are a highly diverse group of animals. They are able to live in many different environments, including water, deserts and forests. Their behaviour is complex, and they are capable of feeling emotions. However, they can also be subjected to poor conditions and behavioural manipulations that are detrimental to their welfare. Further research into reptilian intelligence is needed, so that the needs of these species are better understood.

Herpetology (from Greek herpes, meaning ‘creeping animal’ and Latin -logia,’study of’) is the branch of zoology concerned with reptiles and amphibians, with an emphasis on their biology and ecology. Herpetologists are usually interested in a wide range of species, from snakes to lizards and turtles to amphibians such as frogs and salamanders.

Some research suggests that reptiles may be more complex than many observers realise. For example, despite popular claims that reptiles are sedentary, many species demonstrate extensive natural home ranges. Moreover, reptiles may be more aware of their environment than is widely believed, and are thus likely to suffer from inappropriate captivity conditions [1].

However, it is important to note that the evidence in support of reptilian sentience is weak. Nonetheless, this does not mean that the concept should be abandoned. Indeed, research into reptilian intelligence is a valuable tool for improving the welfare of reptiles in captivity. It can help raise awareness of their complex needs, and highlight that they are not automatic beings who are unaffected by poor treatment.

Research and study of snakes

Reptiles are a unique group of vertebrates. Their diversity in habitats and life history make them an excellent model for research in ecology, evolutionary biology, and behavior. They are ideally suited for studies of the physiology of a wide variety of behaviors, including hunting and prey selection, mating behavior, reproduction, and sex determination. They are also a useful species for behavioral studies, as they respond well to experimental manipulations.

However, despite the unique qualifications of reptiles as an experimental model, snakes are rarely studied in the context of their sentience. A review of the literature on snakes found only 17 articles that assumed or explored reptile sentience, which represents a small proportion of the studies using this taxonomic group. The lack of attention to positive states is a significant concern, particularly given the widespread perception that reptiles are unintelligent and without emotional or cognitive complexity.

Herpetologists are primarily concerned with the study of amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and gymnophiona), crocodilians and reptiles (snakes, lizards, amphisbaenids and turtles). They study the ecology, behaviour, taxonomy and husbandry of these animals. Their collections are among the most extensive in Australia, with representative specimens from both a national and a broader Australasian perspective. They are particularly strong in the area of lizards, with two thirds of the collection consisting of lizards, and snakes, with over half of the total collection being snakes.

Research and study of lizards

The University of Kansas Herpetology Research and Study Center focuses on amphibians and reptiles. Its diverse team of scientists uses collections, field study, and molecular laboratory work to discover new diversity, characterize global patterns of diversity, and understand the evolutionary origins of this diversity. Herpetology is a broad scientific discipline that encompasses several subdisciplines including behavior, ecology, morphology, physiology, genetics, and taxonomy.

For example, a lizard’s ability to adjust its body temperature to match the temperature of its surroundings is vital to survival. But a lizard’s glucocorticoid levels can be affected by stress and this affects how well it adapts to its environment. In addition to measuring glucocorticoid levels, researchers can also use a special light to detect chemical changes in the skin of a lizard when it is exposed to heat or cold.

Geneva’s lab is using a similar approach to examine how different lizard species evolve on an island. His twig anole research is a textbook example of adaptive radiation, a process where specialized forms evolve on different islands. These twig anoles have short legs, elongated bodies, and color patterns that mimic the branches they live on.

Other KU Herpetology projects include phylogenomics of Madagascar geckos and a study of Asian flying geckos. The department also has extensive collections of freshwater and sea snakes, and frogs. The collection of frogs contains many species that are now extinct.

Research and study of turtles

In the oceans, sea turtles travel thousands of miles over their long lives, re-entering their nesting beaches to lay eggs and then swimming off again. They are highly migratory and face many challenges: they are hunted for their meat, skin, eggs and shells; their habitat is lost due to development and pollution; they are accidentally caught in fishing nets (known as bycatch) and their sex is affected by climate change. WWF is committed to stopping the decline of these ancient mariners and works for their recovery.

A researcher who studies turtles may specialize in a number of fields. They might study the evolution of turtles and how their environment has changed, or they might focus on the health of a specific species. Typically, a scientist who studies turtles has a bachelor’s degree in a field like biology or environmental science, and then they pursue a doctorate in the field of reptile studies.

The work of John Roe, an assistant professor in the NSU Halmos College of Arts and Sciences, was recently featured on Ecosphere, a peer-reviewed journal of ecology. His study of box turtles in North Carolina is an example of research that is generating critical baseline data for monitoring future trends, identifying threats and assessing conservation efforts. This state-wide study would not have been possible without the help of an army of volunteers. The citizen scientists who volunteer their time receive training and participate in turtle-tracking events at the beach. They are also part of a network, called Box Turtle Connection, which supports researchers in other states.