WATER ALL FORMS OF LIFE
All forms of life,
from the simple single celled organism to the complex
human body, have water as their major constituent.
Sometimes amounting to 95% never less than 60%. Only
in specific parts of organic structures such as hair
and bone, or when cells are dormant or dying do levels
fall below these.
Water is indispensable
to life. It was not until water became a feature of the
planet that life on it became possible. The origins of
life lie in the unique power or water to either dissolve
substances or hold them in suspension. The existence
of life depends on the controlled movement of solutes
either in true solution or suspension throughout the
cells of a body. Water alone cannot control this. The
phenomenon of osmosis does. This is the diffusion of
higher and lower concentrations of solute molecules constantly
battling to equalise osmotic pressures either side of
cell membranes. In perfect harmony with the surroundings
at cell level osmotic equilibrium is achieved and the
whole body functions well.
Th body of a human
or a reptile is a biological system. It is extremely
sophisticated with complex solutions and suspension held
within the 95% water. These include the powerful electrolyte
mixtures of free ions, such as sodium and potassium so
vital to muscles and nerve control. In humans 83% of
blood, the major transport system of oxygen and 'food'
is made up of water, albumin present within the blood
is used to maintain osmotic pressure.
Reproduction is even
a water-based process in land animals where by the spermatozoa
must swim to the egg. In both oviparous and viviparous
reptiles an aqueous medium is required for the developing
To have a properly functioning body there must be a balance between water gained
and lost within the body. Drinking is by far the best way of redressing water
loss. This is only possible if supplies are readily available. Thirst is a
signal that water loss has exceeded gain. Excess water is eliminated by the
kidneys. Species that have very limited access to water have adapted to rely
on water released from the oxidation of their food.
In many animals the
thermoregulation is achieved by evaporation of water
from the lungs and skin as sweat. This is not so in most
reptiles who must actively move to cooler sites. However
Crocodilea do gap to increase the surface area and allow
moisture to evaporate. Most animals, even reptiles have
a limited tolerance to temperature changes, most cannot
survive above 45°C, this is due to the breakdown,
often irreversibly of the enzyme system, as the proteins
that they are constructed of denature.
Excretion of nitrogenous
waste products from an organism can put huge demands
on water requirements. The simplest end product in many
animals is ammonia, this is highly water soluble and
highly toxic. Water must be kept in reserve by the body
to convert toxic ammonia to the relatively non-toxic
urea. Reptiles and birds are even more economic with
water and produce semi solid or solid uric acid.
Although many reptiles
appear to be able to go with out water for long periods,
many keepers appear to think that water is an optional
extra! A few years ago when there was a proliferation
of reptile shops in the UK it was not uncommon to visit
premises and see a shop full of vivariums with out water.
Luckily this situation rarely occurs these days. True
many reptiles do not drink every day, or even every week,
but there should be the option available.
Do reptiles die in
hibernation because they suffered hypothermia, or were
malnourished and under weight prior to hibernation OR,
was it the fact the keeper turned the heat off and shut
the door to the room in October and didn't revisit until
February? When did the water bowls evaporate, October?
Some novice keepers
believe there animals do not drink, as they are never
seen at the water bowl. There are several reasons for
this. On is simply many of these creatures are nocturnal
and chooses to have a sip at 3am! Many Lizards especially
geckos and Chameleons rarely use bowls they will lick
droplets of water off vivarium furnishings and so the
viv must be sprayed on a regular basis. Some will actively
absorb water through the skin, so the animal should be
lightly sprayed too. There should be no excuse for any
PRAS members not to know how their animals prefer to
drink. They have access to other members and the club
library. For many the Internet is also an option.
Some snakes, such
as water snakes will not thrive without large bowls to
submerse themselves in. Green Anacondas require aquatic
environment to support their large bodies. Viper Boas,
only feel secure and able to eat if they can strike at
prey from water.
To check whether any animals within your collection are dehydrated look around
the eyes. Do they appear sunken? Also pinch the skin. If it springs back readily
it is ok. If it feels flaccid and stays in the pinched position there is a
problem. Poor coordination. Jerking motions and 'star gazing' are also a signs
and symptoms (but also of other problems too) This is due to low water levels
restricting the levels of electrolytes within the body so the lack of essential,
minerals, salts and ions are not allowing the nervous system to function correctly
Dehydration is very
common in escapee snakes and lizards that most of us
have had at some point but do not readily admit to. Try
to keep and accessible bowl on the floor. Once caught
give the animals a good soak and allow to drink freely
for several days whilst warming up slowly. Do no feed
until the metabolism is up to re-established to near
Water is necessary in what ever form your animals takes into it body, through
food, drink or misty spray. It is utilised for normal daily body functions,
sloughing and mating, plus environmental familiarity and security in some cases.
Water is the dominating feature of life.
ensure your animals have access to water.
Ignorance is death.