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Reptiles/Can a lizard have a broken heart?

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We live in Southern California a house in the hills, we have a bunch of different creatures visit us in our backyard. The Blue Belly lizards have been the only ones we decided to make a home for in an aquarium. My 9 year old daughter and I were buying meal worms and hand feeding a number of the bigger Fence lizards, we loved to watch them leap through the air from their perch, we would give them olympic scores for diving. I was amazed at how social these lizards were. Watching the males do push ups can be really funny when there are four or five lined up on a wall, I had no ideal these lizards were so funny and entertaining.  Last year a large amount of babies began running around, what seemed to be more than ever before, I put it down to the abundance of catered meals. After reading about them making good pets we decided to keep a few.  My daughter caught about one a day for a week, we followed instructions that you recommend on upkeep.  We ended up with about 5 baby blue bellies, I knew it was too many, several of them looked like they did not want to be caged, they were they first we let go.  But then, there were two.  A boy and girl that were obviously an item, they snuggled on the log and constantly had their little arms around one another, people couldn't believe it, I have the most amazing photos of them over the past year.  So about a year later they were still cuddling on their log as they basked. As of 3 days ago the female "Bing" (I named for her ability to take off in a flash you could almost hear that sound) went underground, we thought and hoped she might be pregnant, my daughter has been looking for the eggs several times a day.  Last night I found Bing slung over her food dish. It looked  like it took every ounce of her being to get herself out from the dirt up to there.  I thought she might be dehydrated so I misted their place, gave her a little water and waited.  I remembered "Itchy" the male had been running around like a mad lizard for the past 2 days, I thought he was chasing crickets or maybe he was a nervous father. I did not know what more I could do. Then from across the room I saw him trying to carry her up to the top log, when I got there she was upside down, she had a few small breaths and then died.  I realize that I have attributed way too many human characteristics to these lizards, but I also know that they really seemed to be in love. I am worried how Itchy is going to adjust, should I try and get him another partner? I am afraid to let him go, he has been kept since he was a baby. Has a lizard ever died from broken heart?  I appreciate everyones input.
Thanks, J

Answer
Hello J Robert,

First off, if you have any pictures, it would be lovely if you could send one or two, they are such gorgeous lizards!  What a fun project you & your daughter embarked on.  The behaviors are very entertaining indeed.
Oh no, I am so sad for you & your family for your loss of little Bing.  I know how strong a bond with a lizard is & it is very difficult to lose one, no matter the size.

Is Itchy seemingly moping or less interested in food, etc?    Is he basking at all or very active right now?
While most will argue whether or not they are capable of feeling love, emotions, etc with their instinct driven brains.  However, I tend to disagree because I believe all animals have a soul & are capable of feelings & emotions, some more than others of course.
I think you must have had an exceptional duo that may not happen often.  Though, sometimes they can have stronger feelings or preferences for one over another.  It sounds like they did really hit it off & had a great companionship, too.
He is likely going to exhibit some behavioral changes because she is gone & everything will be different for him.  He most likely knew something was wrong when she was not acting normally, too.

To me, it sounds like she had some egg laying/binding distress or issues.  What were there ages around a year?
I can review your tank setup & husbandry if you would like?

As far as getting Itchy another tank mate, sometimes that works & sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes it is difficult to introduce adults as they have a harder time adjusting.  If you did decide to try it would have to be watched to be sure there was no aggressive behavior.
Raising them in a domesticated setting can decrease aggression sometimes so bringing in another one from outside may be a little more aggressive.  You could try to bring in another hatchie & raise it separately & then try when she is old enough to mate.  I wouldn't mate them though until they were at least 1 year, for maturity.

Personally, I would just keep him as your family member, as he may not adjust well to being  in the wild after being domesticated.  He has become attached to you I am sure as well.  I know you would miss him if you did release him.  


Let me know how Itchy is doing.

Tracie  

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Tracie Kretzschmar

Expertise

I can answer questions pertaining to health, UVB specifics, overall husbandry care & supplementation, analysis of blood test results, and behavioral problems & handling. I can answer questions pertaining to bearded dragons, leopard geckos, iguanas, uromastyx & ball pythons. I can answer adeno virus related questions in bearded dragons, & then specifically about the testing methods as well. I am beginning an Pogona Adeno Testing Society in 2008 which will help to begin to start some standardization within the bearded dragon colonies of the breeders who choose to test.

Experience

I have been working with bearded dragons for over 5 years now, as well as leopard geckos, too. I am currently doing rescues, as well. I hope to be able to educate people prior to them purchasing an exotic pet in order to avoid any health crisis with them.

Education/Credentials
I have a master's degree in sports medicine & physiology, & 1 year of vet tech schooling, & am currently working on a reptile certification through the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

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