Reptiles and amphibians are not always the most popular of neighbours, but they are certainly very ‘cool’. These amazing cold-blooded creatures, collectively called herptiles, live all around us and are uniquely adapted to Australia’s hot, dry climate. Unlike mammals that need regular supplies of food and water to power their metabolism, reptiles are incredibly fuel efficient and do not need to eat as much as a similar–sized mammal. They tap into Australia's abundant solar energy, basking in the sunshine to 'power up' for the day. Being cold-blooded gives reptiles a distinct advantage. With our harsh climatic conditions, it's no wonder more than 10% of the world's total species of reptiles are found in Australia.
In our newly-installed Meet your ‘Cool’ Neighbour exhibit you can meet some of Mary’s ‘coolest’ (or more precisely cold-blooded) neighbours. However you might not find them as cold-blooded and uncaring as you might originally think. For example, find out about the male pouched frog (Assa darlingtoni) who surprisingly, actually takes care of his young tadpoles. Both parents guard the fertilised eggs, but after the eggs hatch, the tiny tadpoles swim into brood pouches located just above the male’s hip joint. The tadpoles undergo metamorphosis in his pouches and emerge two months later as little froglets.
Another herptile that looks after its young is the Coastal carpet python (Morelia spilota mcdowelli). Most Australian snake eggs take 2-3 months to hatch. Python mothers can reduce this time by keeping their eggs as warm as possible, even generating heat with their own bodies. The python will coil herself tightly around her soft shelled eggs. During the day, the she may leave her eggs and bask in sunshine, returning to wrap her warmed body around the eggs. When temperatures fall to a certain level, she will rhythmically contract her muscles, just like we do when we are cold, shivering, which in effect warms her eggs. The python mother can sometimes loose up to two-thirds of her body weight expending energy in looking after her eggs and will not eat during the whole incubation period.
These are just a couple of the ‘cool’ creatures living in Mary Cairncross. Our Meet the ‘Cool’ Neighbours exhibition runs until October. Come and learn much more about the amazing amphibians and reptiles living right here.