September 21, 2021


We know our pets

MSSU professor brings everyday living to biology department with hallway enclosures of reptiles, amphibians | Regional Information

The second ground of Reynolds Corridor at Missouri Southern State College could easily be mistaken for a wildlife discovery heart with various species of reptiles and amphibians now residing in the biology office quarters.

David Penning, an assistant professor of biology at MSSU, has been working for 18 months to spherical up the occupants to provide learners with a assortment of understanding possibilities. Multiple creatures are housed in the hallway and some have several inhabitants.

“When you go to a great deal of other faculties, you see real biology in the biology creating, so I preferred to make that come about,” claimed Penning. “This has been in enhancement for a though, but we had a significant force in excess of the summer months. It’s good publicity remedy.”

The critters are beneficial for research and most are utilised as ambassador animals to teach the community about selected species. The animal ambassador system at Southern was proven in 2016.

Penning produced enclosures that are outfitted with foliage, particular hiding destinations and all of the food the tenants can eat. There’s Meatless Mondays, Worm Wednesdays and Fish Fridays.

“You do not ever just get one particular strange animal,” explained Penning. “Hopefully, this will be their household indefinitely. Some of them will have to enhance inevitably but most of them are sized out to approximately what they need even at their greatest dimension.”

Penning specializes in herpetology, the research of amphibians and reptiles. He aided start a herpetology plan in the university’s biology office right after coming to MSSU in 2016.

The animals permit students to gain hands-on working experience and have motivated some to swap their concentrate of analyze to biology. Pupils understand about their weight loss plans, drinking water top quality and how to retain a wide variety of ecosystems.

Narissa Lamont, a junior at Missouri Southern State University, talks Friday about Neo, a 3-toed box turtle, discovered on campus and now on exhibit at Reynolds Hall.

“The objective of this was to get exotic animals,” claimed Penning. “For pre-veterinary students, they never at any time actually get any unique animal instruction. We have some college students at a vet faculty ideal now exactly where they’ll have a one-hour lab time period exactly where they have a dissected a snake and that’s their coaching.”

The locked enclosures at MSSU dwelling an eclectic mix of critters with names this kind of as Incredibly hot Puppy, Bonnie and Clyde, Solar Panel and Beetle Juice — and they have just as substantially temperament as their names. Pupils are assigned to about a few to four animals to care for and interact with.

“It’s the finest portion about coming to faculty,” mentioned Narissa Lamont, 19, a junior at MSSU majoring in biology pre-vet.

About the inhabitants

Each and every enclosure is labeled with a name and specifics about the animal. Here’s a look at a few of the inhabitants in the biology division of Reynolds Corridor:

• Warm Doggy: Penning reported Scorching Pet, a a few-toed amphiuma, has a exclusive area in his heart. Scientifically named Amphiuma tridactylum, the species of aquatic salamander is indigenous to the Southeastern United States. Warm Pet was located by Penning and one of his biology classes in a rainstorm in Louisiana.

Dayle Chasten, 20, a junior MSSU college student majoring in pre-med, is assigned to just take care of Warm Pet dog.

“Sometimes he eats two entire filets of fish,” she stated. “He eats shrimp and worms. I feed him each and every other day. He likes his cage, but it is difficult mainly because he desires to burrow under all the things. He stays quite thoroughly clean, but he’s also the dirtiest out of all of the other ones. We take a look at their pH for any toxic matters in the water like ammonia nitrate.”

Chasten explained all of the creatures have their personal distinctive personalities and mannerisms. Though she’s learning pre-med, she fell in adore with the biology department animals even though operating with them in excess of the summer.

“Hot Pet dog is also my beloved just due to the fact of how a great deal he eats, and he just chills,” she reported.

• Gumby: A Jackson’s chameleon named Gumby may possibly be 1 of the laziest tenants remaining at Reynolds Hall. Males can grow up to 9 to 13 inches very long and have a lifespan up to a ten years. Only males have horns to protect their territory.

Penning stated he’s a projectile eater, making use of his extensive tongue to seize food, but he’s not superior at remaining a chameleon due to the fact he’s extremely lazy.

“He’s the worst chameleon since you have to deliver food to him, and he’ll be like, ‘Fine. I’ll try to eat it,’” Penning said when holding Gumby. “He’s a labradoodle of a chameleon. His ft are referred to as zygodactylous, so he grips issues with two toes.”

Chameleons have the inclination to be significant tension animals, in accordance to Penning, who reported his cage was positioned decreased to the floor. The reptiles really don’t consume from standing water, so his enclosure is outfitted with fog to create condensation. The dampness also aids with pores and skin shedding.

“We crammed the cage to where he can find a bunch of spots to hide and not see anything,” reported Penning. “We just make sure he’s continue to consuming and producing certain he’s getting treatment of himself. Each and every now and then, we’ll get him out for a h2o bathtub, do a fat look at and make absolutely sure he’s accomplishing great.”

• Bonnie and Clyde: A pair of stinkpot turtles named Bonnie and Clyde have been on campus for about a year. Sternotherus odoratus, usually regarded as stinkpot or musk turtles, are living up to their smelly reputations exactly where it secretes a foul-smelling odor when startled or frightened as a protection mechanism from predators.


Labels on aquariums at Missouri Southern Point out College give names and info about the animals on screen at Reynolds Corridor.

“They have these glands that give off an oily material,” mentioned Penning while keeping Clyde. They are not a popular pet animal for the reason that they’re stinky, but I believed it would be a amazing animal to have all over in this article.”

Stinkpot turtles are indigenous to southeastern Canada and significantly of the eastern United States. Bonnie and Clyde were being uncovered in Kellogg Lake Park in Carthage, as part of a biology study venture to master how to perform surveys of unique species of animals.

Even though they’re native to a great deal of the eastern United States, stinkpot turtles hold a considerable presence in Missouri given that their existence in the area wasn’t recorded until eventually the early 1900s.

“There is a single point out of them when in a e book from 1911,” stated Penning. “It’s the only reference to Jasper County, Missouri. It is the initial to ever be revealed on reptiles and amphibians in Missouri, and he actually states he discovered a person in Carthage. That’s it. Now, we’ve uncovered 120 of them. We’re doing a inhabitants checking venture, and I imagine this is 1 of the neat examples that it’s not necessarily biologically uncommon, it is scientifically rare.”

Biologically scarce is something that is not found frequently, but if it is scientifically rare, then it implies no 1 has published it down, explained Penning.

“I feel the nearby neighborhood knows the turtles are there, but they don’t know that it’s intended to be widespread,” he stated. “It’s a classic detail that happens anytime you border numerous states. As you get shut to political boundaries, typically your detection rates improve.”

• Hollywood: A California kingsnake named Hollywood is the initial hallway animal at MSSU. She’s been with Penning due to the fact 2011. Their scientific identify is Lampropeltis californiae, and they’re one particular of the most well known snakes in captivity. The snakes are native to the western United States and northern Mexico.

“I analyze, for the most portion, how animals strike, consume, constrict and things like that, but a massive one is defensive striking,” claimed Penning. “Hollywood is not terrified of me at all. I could do practically nothing that would induce fear in her, but I can not examine half of the points I want to study for the reason that she currently is aware of me.”

Hollywood moved with Penning from Louisiana when he recognized a placement at MSSU. The snake species can stay up to 40 decades aged and grow up to 6 feet prolonged. There are a few muscle tissue that join to every single scale, with Hollywood acquiring around 15,000 muscle tissue, explained Penning.


Dayle Chasten, a junior at Missouri Southern Condition University, talks Friday about the enclosures created for animals at Reynolds Corridor. World | ROGER NOMER

Lamont explained she’s definitely terrified of snakes but will hold the nonvenomous California kingsnake.

“She’s super welcoming,” she explained. “She really is my most loved. I really like her. I hung out with her for two hours at Kellogg Lake the initially 7 days that Dr. Penning requested me to get the job done with him.”

Penning presently oversees 11 pupils who have been conducting exploration on the animals.

“It’s probably six students way too several, but here we are,” he reported. “It’s animal welfare with reside ammunition. It is genuine-world stuff.”