Posts Tagged 'ball python'

Springtime shedding

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

The weather’s getting warmer, and most of us are finally peeling off the layers of sweaters, scarves, hats and coats that were our winter second skins.

Well, it turns out we’re not the only organisms shedding some layers. Here at the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center, quite a few residents of our live animal collection have been doing some shedding of their own.


Here’s Leonardo, our Leopard gecko, during a shed cycle.

All herptiles (reptiles and amphibians) shed their skin, and Leonardo is no exception. We can always tell when Leonardo is getting ready to shed – he turns white! You can see in the photo how much brighter his new skin (in the middle of his body) is compared to the white, loosened skin he’s sloughing off.

And once he’s shed his skin? He usually eats it. It sounds gross, but it’s a good idea. A lot of energy went into loosening and shedding his skin, and by eating it Leonardo can get some of that energy back. Also, in the wild bits of shed gecko skin are a clue to predators that there’s a yummy snack nearby, so it’s important to get rid of the evidence.


Leopold, one of our giant African millipedes, has also gotten rid of some old skin.

It may look like two millipedes in the photo, but there’s only one: Leopold (white), accompanied by his old exoskeleton (dark).

When arthropods (which include millipedes) shed their skin, it’s called molting. Unlike the thin, flexible skin that most vertebrates have, arthropods have an exoskeleton, or outer skeleton. Because it’s a hard outer casing, the exoskeleton doesn’t flake off in bits. Rather, millipedes (and insects, spiders, crabs, and other arthropods) grow until they no longer fit in their exoskeleton, the exoskeleton splits, and the animal crawls out. In the photo above, Leopold’s abdomen (back end) is still coming out of his exoskeleton.

Many arthropods are white after they molt. As their new exoskeleton is exposed to the air, it hardens and darkens. And what happens to the old exoskeleton? Leopold will eat it (yep, there’s a theme here).


Slinky, our Ball python, sheds his skin every three weeks or so. When Slinky is ready to shed, his skin color becomes duller and his eyes turn foggy. The color change is because Slinky’s skin is lifting away from his body – even the eye caps that protect his eyes!

Like Leonardo, our gecko, Slinky’s skin usually comes off in sections. Since Slinky doesn’t have any limbs to help him remove his old skin, he uses the friction of his body rubbing against other objects (and rubbing against himself) to remove the skin.

Click here to see a video of Slinky shedding while coiled up inside his rock. Slinky didn’t eat that skin – he much prefers rats.

All photos by Michelle Brannon, Animal Caretaker


Meet Slinky!

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator, and Michelle Brannon, Slinky Wrangler

This is me (Slinky) and my friend Toby, the K-12 Education Coordinator at the Museum

Slinky the snake is our Museum’s wonderful ambassador, semi-official mascot, and headliner of our live animal collection. You can meet Slinky and our other animals (including Sergey the Russian tortoise, Josie the rat, and some really neat insects) this Saturday from 11 am to 2 pm during our Meet the Animals program. Michelle Brannon takes care of Slinky and our other animals, and she offered to translate a blog post from Slinky to the world. So, here goes!

My name is Slinky. I’m a ball python, and my species is native to parts of Africa. I’ve never actually been to Africa, but I hear it’s a pretty neat place. I was born in captivity, which means that ever since I hatched out of my egg, I’ve been handled by people. I’ve learned that people are super nice and I love to meet new ones all the time! If I haven’t met you before, there’s a problem. You absolutely MUST come visit me! I used to live in Discovery Science Center, but I’ve moved with them to the Fort Collins Museum building in Old Town Fort Collins. I have this really big new house that is just perfect for me! It would be great if you could come check it out sometime. My favorite place is under the big log in the middle, so look for me there if I’m not out on the floor meeting you face to face.

As for what I’ve been up to lately, I’ve been supervising and entertaining the field trip groups that come to visit the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center, digesting my latest rat, and planning this blog. It’s been on my mind for a while now, let me tell you. I tried to type it myself, but I got a tail cramp. I’m learning how to type by using Twitter, but this blog is a bit longer than 140 characters. My human friends are helping me out this time around. Can you get carpel tunnel in your tail? I’ll have to ask my vet on my next visit.

Oh, my Twitter account! You guys really should check that out. I normally update it once or twice a week (I’m a little slow, not having any hands). I like to talk about upcoming events at the Museum, and share amazing facts about my favorite subject, snakes. If you want to know exactly what’s going on around here, you need to follow me. You’ll also get some random musings from inside the tank, which we all know is pretty dang cool. How many of you can say you know exactly what a snake is thinking when he’s thinking it? Share the love, becoming a Slinky follower! There’s a link at the bottom of this blog that will direct you to my Twitter page.

That’s about it for me. I would love to write more blogs, so if you liked this one, leave me a comment here, or send me a message on my Twitter page. Ask me questions, or just give me topics to discuss. I’m really getting into this internet thing, so if you ask, I’ll answer! Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you around my tank soon!


Animal magnetism

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is currently playing host to a young Great White shark for the fifth time in the last few years. The young 5’3″ female is swimming in the Aquarium’s million-gallon Outer Bay tank, which holds a number of deep ocean-going marine species, including the ocean sunfish and the giant Pacific bluefin tuna (check out the live webcam to watch the Great White and her neighbors in action!). The previous four Great Whites were successfully released back into the wild after they became too large to remain in captivity.

I can hardly imagine the thrill of seeing such an amazing creature up close and personal, and I’ll tell you, if I could I’d get out to Monterey myself, just for the experience. The opportunity to see and learn about live animals, in person, is invaluable for all ages. “Authentic, first-hand encounters with animals have a power to inspire that eclipses any other interpretive technique I’ve seen,” according to Jim Covel, Director of Interpretive Programs at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “These encounters can alter the sensationalized images of wildlife—be they sharks, snakes, spiders or others—and help us to grasp the true nature of these creatures.”

Though far more humble, you can experience some “animal magnetism” for yourself at the Museum tomorrow, and the 2nd Saturday of each month, during our “Meet the Animals” program. You can go face-to-face and hands-on with Slinky, our wonderful ball python, Sergey, the Russian tortoise, and our other insect, reptile, and amphibian friends. Drop by any time between 11 am and 2 pm. See you there!

Slinky and a young friend

Slinky and a young friend

March 2023

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