Glossary Of Terms Used In Herpetology

Glossary Of Terms

In every workplace or hobby there are termologies that appear alien to an outsider.

The field of reptiles is no different, so here we have created a list of words that are commonly used and give you a brief description of their meaning.

This should ensure that not only will you will be able to ask the right questions, but that you will also be able to understand the answers!

Ambient Surrounding Temperature

The temperature of the air in a room.


Lives or climbs trees.


Lives totally or mainly in water.


The deliberate loss of a tail for defensive purposes.

Basking Light

An overhead light that is placed in the tank for reptiles to bask under.


The top half of a turtle or tortoise shell.

CB (Captive bred)

This is the best animal to buy. They have normally been bred by small scale breeders who are most likely hobbyists. The animals should be free from the problems associated with wild caught animals and also it is much better from a conservation point of view.

CF (Captive farmed)

These are animals that are kept in units, normally in fenced of areas in their native land. Although there are reputable farmers, the conditions these animals are kept in are quite often less than ideal.


A term used when referring to turtles and tortoises.


A passage that is used for excreting waste and reproduction.


Active at dawn and dusk.


Active during the day.


Relating to the back of an animal.


From a defined area, normally fairly small.


Young mice that are just starting to grow hair.


The study of reptiles and amphibians. This derives from the Greek word herpeton, 'things that creep and crawl on their bellies'.


Refers to a reptile or amphibian.


Young mice that have weaned; juvenile locusts.


An insect eater.

LTC (Long term captive)

This is pretty self explanatory. This normally relates to a wild caught specimen and indicates that it has settled into captivity and should not have any problems associated with newly wild caught animals, such as parasites.


The lower jaw.


The upper jaw.


Relates to a particular color or pattern.


Active during the night.


An animal that eats both plants and animals.


An animal that reproduces by laying eggs.


A reproduction technique where eggs are retained in the body and then either released when the young are ready hatch or hatch inside the mother.


Females who give birth without mating. The offspring are mainly females.


Disease-causing organism.


The day/night cycle of light and dark.


Newly born mice.


The bottom half of a turtle shell or tortoise shell.


Towards the belly.


Gives birth to live young.

Temperature Gradient

The range of temperature a reptile needs to regulate its internal body temperature.


Lives on land.


The ability to change body temperature by moving to warmer or cooler places.


Hardly remaining and performing no function.

WC (Wild caught)

As the name indicates, these are animals caught in the wild. As a general rule they should be avoided for both conservation and more practical problems such as parasites and diseases they may be harbouring.

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