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Dermatophagy: waste not, want not?

Dermatophagy: Waste not. want not? A panoply of amphibians and reptiles regularly feast on their own shed skins or those of their brethren, researchers report in the June JOURNAL oF HERPETOLOGY. Scientists previously viewed this practice, called dermatophagy, as a freak occurrence, but a new survey of more than 100 zoos and aquariums worldwide has documented it in 285 species of frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, turtles, tuatara, and caecilians, says coauthor Paul J. Weldon, a herpetologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Weldon suspects that the animals dine on epidermis for the extra protein, although other scientists have suggested that skin-shedders protect themselves from stalking predators by eating the evidence of their presence. Since the animals swallow their skins in the blink of an eye, observations of dermatophagy were rare until Weldon and his colleagues enlisted the aid of animal caretakers to compile new data. "Observations still need to be made in the wild; he adds, "because it's hard to know how captivity affects behavior?
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Title Annotation:more amphibians and reptiles than previously believed eat shed skin
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jun 19, 1993
Words:167
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