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RE: So to summarize

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Posted by: captainjack0000 at Fri Feb 1 19:10:30 2013  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by captainjack0000 ]  

I have had this debate before, the "ambient air temp vs ground temp" debate that is.

Both are important, with perhaps a slight favoring towards surface (or belly heat), at least in terms of keeping them at home.

A snake is going to regulate its temperature, and each species probably has different approaches. There might even be different approaches at different stages of life. A young milk snake may dive for cover in a thick humus layer, and he might be able to move up or down in that layer, at different times of day to regulate temp. If decomposition is in play, say near a rotting log, then that might even provide some heat for the young animal. Compost heaps can give off a lot of heat.

A rattlesnake however might choose to bask in the sun on a pile of leaves, and not bother going under.

I think many people have this notion that the only way a snake regulates its body temperature is using incoming solar rays or hiding in the shade. I would bet that it is WAY more complicated than that.

But what I can tell you, from my climatology class here at UF, is that the air temps you get on these weather maps are probably recorded at about 5 feet off of the ground, and they're in a stevenson screen. It's a box with open slats (google image search for a pic) that allows for the passage of air, but also keeps the sun off of the thermometers and whatever else might be inside. A big reason for this is because air temperature is going to be drastically different than the surface of the intrument. Plus, they need consistency. You don't every cloud coming by throwing off your data collection, so its better to just keep it in the shade all of the time. Why 5ft or so? I bet its convient. Why bend over if you can set it at shoulder height? But this does cause some problems. I've been taught that some places may have a temperature difference of up to 36F in 2m of air closest to the surface. It can be WAY hotter down by your feet than it is by your face. The shortwave radiation coming in from the sun on a clear day can really heat up the ground, but the longwave radiation given off by the earth takes a while to heat up the air above it. Side note, the warmest part of the day (excluding air mass movements and whatnot) is mid afternoon when longwave radiation re-radiating back from the atmosphere is at its peak. (Can anyone tell I'm loving my class because of its utility for herpetoculture?)

Anyway, my point is that air temps are a good start, but surface temps might of more value.

But, the other side of the argument is that snakes may help regulate temperature via breathing. I don't have much evidence for this other than hearsay, but the idea is that the lung in snake is long and passes by some critical organs and blood vessels. A warm surface but cold air may cause problems for the snake because of the exchange of heat from the animal to the air that it exhales. Every new breath in brings in more cold air, chilling the blood and whatever else, and every exhale releases more heat from the animal.

So that argument then says ambient air has to be proper as well.

IMO opinion, both are important because it seems silly to risk being wrong.


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