The Beautiful and The Deadly: Museum of the Rockies hosts reptile exhibit

Posted at 7:35 AM, Jan 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-30 09:35:46-05

BOZEMAN — Matt visits with Jordie Hall, a handler with the new exhibit at the Museum of the Rockies: "REPTILES: THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE DEADLY"

In this family-friendly exhibition, visitors will learn how to milk a viper, learn to speak croc, and test their knowledge with Turtle Trivia or Lizard Wizard.

Exhibited live reptiles include the following and are subject to change at any time.

  • Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macroclemys temminckii) Instead of swimming after fish, this bizarre turtle lures them into its mouth with its worm-like tongue. This sit-and-wait predator often grows a thick mat of algae over its shell. It is the largest species of fresh-water turtle in North America.
  • Florida Soft-shelled Turtle (Trionyx sp.) These turtles have a flexible body rather than a rigid shell, making them look like animated pancakes in the water. They make up for their lack of protection with speed and an aggressive temperament.
  • Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina mccordi) Snake-necked turtles have comically long necks which they fold to one side when threatened. These active swimmers seem to be looking back at you and often follow a child’s finger across the front of the exhibit glass.
  • Star Tortoise (Geochelone elegans) Indian star tortoises use their beautifully patterned shells as camouflage when hiding among tussocks of dry grass. The pet trade has heavily exploited them, and over-collecting has endangered some populations in the wild.
  • African Dwarf Crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis) African dwarf crocodiles are the smallest living crocodile species in the world. Despite growing to an adult length of only 6 feet, they are adept predators of vertebrates, large invertebrates such as crustaceans, and carcasses of animals.
  • American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) Our country’s most abundant crocodilian was once thought close to extinction, but American alligators have made an impressive come back. This was the first species taken off the U.S. endangered species list – a conservation success story!
  • Veiled Chameleon (Chameleo calyptratus) This tree-dwelling lizard looks like it’s from another planet! Eyes that move independently, skin that changes color with a mood, and a tongue longer than the body make chameleons unique.
  • Blue-tongue Skink (Tilgua scincoides) Stubby legs and small teeth make these lizards ill-equipped to run or fight. They depend on the element of surprise for protection, opening their mouth to his and reveal a bright blue tongue!
  • Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum) This and the beaded lizard are the only legged lizards that are venomous to humans. Their jaws are powerful, and the bite is extremely painful, but it is rarely fatal to humans. The striking colors may warn predators that the Gila monster is venomous.
  • Frilled Leaf-tailed Gecko (Uroplatus sp.) These lizards give new meaning to the word camouflage. Textured skin, a flattened body, and a jagged outline make them disappear on tree bark. They offer a great interpretive opportunity – visitors love trying to find all of the residents in the gecko habitat.
  • Rhinoceros Iguana (Cyclura cornuta) This lizard endures blistering tropical sun, eats salty plants, and rarely gets fresh water. To conserve water, special glands in the head filter salt and drain into the nasal passage. The iguana sneezes to expel the brine.
  • Red-sided Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis) These beautiful snakes overwinter in dens in western Canada with hundreds of their own species. They swarm out of hibernation in the spring and congregate in writhing “mating balls.” Garter snakes subdue prey animals with brute force, often swallowing them alive.
  • Green Tree Python (Morelia viridis) High in the rainforest canopy, the green color and symmetrically looped bodies of these predators make them nearly invisible to predators and prey. They kill by constriction.
  • Mangrove Snake (Boiga dendrophila) This venomous snake has short grooved teeth in the rear of its upper jaw. The bite is rarely dangerous to humans but can paralyze small prey animals.
  • Red Spitting Cobra (Naja pallida) Spitting cobras are the only snakes that use venom at a distance. Venom is sprayed from an opening near the tip of each fang.
  • Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica) What big teeth! This African viper has the longest fangs of any snake – up to two inches. Intricate geometric patterns and keeled scales make this beautiful snake look velvety.
  • Pueblan Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum) A variety of milk snakes display bright red, yellow, and black bands that make them look similar to the venomous coral snakes.
  • Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus) The word reticulated refers to the pattern of intersecting lines on the snake's skin. Reticulated Pythons are probably the longest snakes.
  • Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) Size and pugnacious temper combined with highly toxic venom make this one of the most dangerous snakes in the United States. Organized snake hunts have decimated rattlesnake populations in many areas allowing rodent populations to expand rapidly.

Exhibition interactives include:

  • Giant tortoise shell – Small children climb on this full-scale replica of a giant Galapagos Tortoise shell.
  • The Shell Game – Push buttons to test your knowledge of turtle shell designs.
  • Turtle Trivia – Are you a turtle expert? Lift flaps to get answers to the most frequently asked questions about turtles.
  • Male or Female? – Learn how to tell the sex of a turtle by checking the plastron (bottom shell) of a male and female.
  • Headucation – What can you tell about an alligator’s life by looking at its skull?
  • Croc Talk – Learn to speak croc in under 5 minutes! Press buttons to hear recorded crocodilian sounds and learn what they mean.
  • Alligator or Crocodile? – Can you tell them apart? Lift skulls for correct answers.
  • Scutes’n Scales – Feel the different textures of reptile skin and guess whether they belong to a turtle, crocodile or snake.
  • Bipedal Locomotion – Spin an old fashion zoetrope to see a basilisk lizard running on its hind legs.
  • Lizard Wizard – Answer questions about lizards from basic to bizarre.
  • Best Foot Forward –Lizards have different feet for different purposes. Guess whose foot it is.
  • Milk a Viper – Press a button to see how venom is collected in a glass vial as it drips from the fangs of a model rattlesnake.
  • Record Breakers – Lift flaps to get answers to questions about snakes – giant and deadly!
  • How Big Is It? – You’ve heard of big fish stories – see if you can accurately guess the length of giant snakes.
  • Snake Skeleton – Learn why snakes are so flexible and guess how many vertebrae a Boa constrictor has.
  • Fangs – Open and close the mouth of a giant Gaboon Viper skull and observe how the huge fangs extend and fold against the roof of the mouth.
  • Sidewinder – Spin the zoetrope and observe how the Sidewinder Rattlesnake moves across hot desert sand without getting burned.