Tetrapod Zoology

No time for anything substantive lately, though thoughts on the ZSL caecilian meeting coming up soon. Meanwhile, here’s another short article in the ‘over-enthusiastic swallowing’ series: note that the articles aren’t all about cases where animals choke to death. Some of them concern cases where the animals swallow insanely large objects, and still live to tell the tale. This time round, we look at the case of Mushu, a pet Central bearded dragon Pogona vitticeps, who was noted by her 7-year-old owner (Finley Collins) as having something unusual protruding from her vent.

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Finley was (according to the online news articles I’ve read) sure that Mushu was pregnant and about to give birth. But no: Bearded dragons are oviparous, and the thing protruding from her cloaca wasn’t biological in origin. It was a toy lizard. Mushu swallowed the whole thing, and it successfully passed through her entire digestive system (look how big the toy is compared to Mushu). Putting a toy rubber lizard in an enclosure with a live one is a bit of a dumb thing to do, but I guess that’s what happens when 7-year-olds look after lizards.

The vet who removed the toy lizard (the removal wasn’t surgical: it was simply pulled out of Mushu’s cloaca, I think under anaesthetic) noted that screws, pennies and other objects have been swallowed by captive Bearded dragons.

Thanks to Markus Bühler for the heads-up.

For previous articles on ‘over-enthusiastic’ swallowing see…

Comments

  1. #1 John Conway
    December 9, 2009

    Ow, ow, ow…

    Wish I’d been able to a photo of that q-tip my myna bird swallowed. Never saw it come out though.

  2. #2 Andreas Johansson
    December 9, 2009

    Do bearded dragons how much in the way of gut coiling?

  3. #3 David Marjanović
    December 9, 2009

    The mind boggles.

    Do bearded dragons how much in the way of gut coiling?

    That one in particular… not anymore, I suppose!

  4. #4 Dartian
    December 9, 2009

    Putting a toy rubber lizard in an enclosure with a live one is a bit of a dumb thing to do, but I guess that’s what happens when 7-year-olds look after lizards.

    One online source says that she put it there so that the real lizard wouldn’t feel lonely. The road to hell is paved with good intentions…

    Did the toy lizard originally have that rather unappealing yellow hue, or did it become discoloured inside the agama’s gut?

  5. #5 Graham King
    December 9, 2009

    “Rubber”

    That’s a relief. At first I thought it was plastic.

    Darren: what about the fossil record?

    With nested conspecific skeletal remains, can one confidently distinguish cannibalism from viviparity in all cases? I imagine that adults with ‘youngling swallowed whole’ and ‘youngling about to be born’ might look similar if fossilized; as might ‘lying atop’ too, it seems (whether really proximal in vivo or merely accumulated together after death): “http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/09/060925-cannibal-dinosaur.html”>Coelophysis, “http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/12/1219_021219_dinocannibal.html”> and again.

  6. #6 Mokele
    December 9, 2009

    At one point my adult tegu easily passed a fairly large chunk of cypress mulch he must have ingested along with his mouse.

  7. #7 Christophe Thill
    December 9, 2009

    At last, a story with a happy end! I was beginning to doubt that the Christmas spirit would ever contaminate this blog…

  8. #8 Willy Turazzini
    December 9, 2009

    “At last, a story with a happy end!”

    I reaaaaly doubt that poor Mushu agrees with you…

  9. #9 retrieverman
    December 9, 2009

    Considering that bearded dragons are known to eat the offspring of their own species (as are all lizards), this makes sense.

    Despite the intelligence of the bearded dragon (compared to other lizards), they will try to eat lots of things. Baby bearded dragons can be on the menu.

  10. #10 Zach Hawkins
    December 9, 2009

    I am going to find that silly little kid and give him read him a long list of reasons why you should not EVER put a toy lizard witha real lizard, my sister did that once with my leopard Gecko’s, Luckely leopard Gecko’s (like most gecko’s) are relativly clever and as such THIS event was avoided for a whole school day while I was unable to remove it!
    PS: At last, one of your unfotunet’s who didn’t die!

  11. #11 Ian
    December 9, 2009

    I’m glad the lizard survived. I love bearded dragons and it would be too sad for me if it died.

  12. #12 Dartian
    December 9, 2009

    Zach:

    I am going to find that silly little kid and give him read him a long list of reasons

    The kid is a she, not a he, and this incident took place in 2007 (in Jacksonville, Florida, USA). You can read the original account here.

    Btw, according to that article, the veterinarian who removed the toy lizard appears to have given this kind of phenomenon the technical name lizardus rubberi. Now that’s some great Latin.

  13. #13 Jura
    December 9, 2009

    This reminds me of the time my (late) iguana ate a green bandanna I had laying about. I didn’t even realize the bandanna was gone until I saw it in his poop one day. It must have been one dry bowel movement.

  14. #14 Zach Miller
    December 9, 2009

    I have avoided placing little toys in my leopard’s tank for years because one of them (Solid) will eat anything that can reasonably fit in his mouth. I’m not sure whether he’s dumb or over-enthusiastic. My wonder gecko is the same way, but more investigative, sniffing and licking an object before trying to swallow it whole.

    I’ve always wanted a Beardie, but my wife will never go for it. She barely tolerates the geckos.

  15. #15 AnJaCo
    December 9, 2009

    Presumably the toy lizard is hollow and thus somewhat compressible while traveling through the gut.

    But still…[what John Conway said].

  16. #16 Sebastian Marquez
    December 9, 2009

    For some reason I like how the article title conforms with the rest in the series except for the exhuberance: mushu lives!

    This has been a neat little series of articles, the pictures really do say it all…

  17. #17 Chris M.
    December 9, 2009

    #14, it almost certainly isn’t. Almost all of those smaller-ish ones are solid, or if not solid, take enough force to compress in the middle that it wouldn’t really help.

    Oof.

  18. #18 John Scanlon FCD
    December 10, 2009

    I’ve always wanted a Beardie

    The correct Australian term is ‘Beardo’.

    Not sure quite why that’s so, considering the prevalence of the other pattern in other Oz diminutives like Frilly (frill-necked lizard, the beardo’s even more flamboyant cousin), Kingy (king brown or mulga snake), Wedgie (wedge-tailed eagle), or Budgie (which everyone knows). Maybe that the latter examples only have short vowels, but a long-enough first syllable needs balancing with another long vowel.(?)

    Note that the name ‘Bandy-bandy’ for fossorial black and white ringed snakes Vermicella follows a different pattern; I don’t know when or where that name came into use, but reduplication is common in aboriginal languages, e.g. in my dad’s home town Wagga Wagga, said to mean ‘[place of] many crows’. I guess this pattern passed into a pidgin contact language and thence to a fauna list for the [snake with] ‘many bands’. On the ‘Beardo’ pattern, we otherwise might have ‘Bando’ (or some reference to Collingwood Aussie Rules club? I believe they describe the jersey as having black and white hoops, but the ‘hoop snake’ is something else.)

    There’s a photo (black and white, naturally!) in Kinghorn’s Snakes of Australia (1929, if it was in the first edition) of a Bandy-bandy, excavated and bisected by farm equipment part way through swallowing a blind snake Ramphotyphlops (‘Rampho’) as big as itself. It probably wouldn’t otherwise have been a fatal meal, and that actually seems to be the only thing they eat.

  19. #19 Dartian
    December 10, 2009

    John:

    Oz diminutives like Frilly (frill-necked lizard, the beardo’s even more flamboyant cousin), Kingy (king brown or mulga snake), Wedgie (wedge-tailed eagle), or Budgie (which everyone knows)

    Where does the ‘Willie’ in Willie Wagtail come from?

  20. #20 Jerzy
    December 10, 2009

    BTW, how worldwide is the naughty kids’ play of pumping toads?

  21. #21 Rosel
    December 10, 2009

    Zach you have a wonder gecko?!

    wow, I’ve seen them in the wild in the UAE and they are lovely, and oddly tame, I had one crawling all over my hands and feet.
    some pics http://www.smugmug.com/gallery/7960176_YgsXg/1

  22. #22 Stevo Darkly
    December 10, 2009

    Poor Mushu looks exhausted. Understandably.

  23. #23 bioLarzen
    December 11, 2009

    I just LOVE good stories with a happy ending :D

    bio

  24. #24 omphaloskepsis
    December 11, 2009

    A vet friend of mine once showed me her collection of x-rays of things iguanas had swallowed, including most of the contents of a change purse, ping-pong balls, and of all things, a little metal toy car! It was a big iguana.

  25. #25 darwinsdog
    December 22, 2009

    Reminds me of the large savannah monitor my relative had years ago. It stayed behind the chest freezer in his parent’s basement, and only went on the prowl when hungry. We were feeding it garter snakes, which it would lumber out to devour. After having consumed several snakes, this idiot kid we knew bounced a black hard rubber “super ball” across the floor. The voracious varanid chased it down, pounced on it and swallowed it! My cousin was livid. He figured the ball would fatally impact his lizard’s intestines. The monitor lived for years after that and the ball was never seen again. Neither passed nor puked. Guess it was digested.

  26. #26 Jon H
    December 23, 2009

    A few years ago I bought an emperor scorpion, and put a Kit Fisto Star Wars action figure in the cage, standing up.

    The scorpion climbed up into Fisto’s arms.

    Go figure.

  27. #27 arachnophile
    December 23, 2009

    I am dumbfounded! After all the bowel-impaction horror-stories I heard while being a care-giver to a green iguana I am VERY happy to hear that our beardie-friend lived. :D

  28. #28 FINLEY
    September 4, 2010

    i was 7 then and did NOTput the rubber lizard in mushus cage i honestly dont know how it got therewell mushu is still alive 3 yearslater so i dont think yall need to make such a big deal. i have 4. 2 babies and mushu and her sister!!!!!!!

  29. #29 David Marjanović
    September 5, 2010

    Hey, FINLEY, relax. We’re just amazed how distensible a bearded dragon’s gut is! :-)

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