Our baby beardies have new homes!

This post is by Sibyl, the museum’s volunteer recruiter. She’s been keeping us posted on the progress of the little bearded dragon babies that were laid in her office.  

Thank you to everyone who entered the drawing in hopes of winning one of the HMNS baby beardies!  It was exciting to see how many reptile lovers there are between HMNS staff members, volunteers and patrons! 

I wish we had a clutch of babies large enough to provide a baby for each of those entering the contest.  Though we are truly sad to see them leave the Volunteer Office, we are very thankful to know our eight babies have each found a nice home and nurturing parents to take care of them!


Congratulations to the winners of the first generation of HMNS baby beardies!

Kenneth Collins
Gladys Arakelian
Jeremy Gray
Rhian Farley
Jeanene Goza
Nadine Mc Clary
Bob Hopkins
Dee Sorrick

Thank you so much for your support towards the HMNS Capital Campaign!

Making Bearded Dragons, Part II: Up for Adoption

Today’s post is written by Sibyl Keller, a volunteer recruiter and educational coordinator at HMNS. Today, she updates us on the bearded dragon eggs that were recently laid in the volunteer office. Read her first post for the ful story.

WOW — What a week in the Volunteer Office! 

The incubator holding 12 bearded dragon eggs quietly lived on my kitchen counter next to the coffee maker for over two months.  The lizard lovers at the Museum patiently waited, day after day, wondering if Monster’s first clutch of eggs were even viable.  Through my research, I had read that many times the first clutch is not fertile; therefore, would not produce offspring. 

We were all elated that Monster actually laid 24 eggs – but, the disappointment of not producing at least one baby lingered in our minds. I had handled the eggs in search of any signs of life, but unfortunately I never discovered any indication of development.  Monster’s owner, Chris, asked daily about any “new news” I could offer.  As days passed, it didn’t look promising.  I told Chris I would bring the incubator in so he could see what I believed was not happening.  The incubator slowly traveled back to the Volunteer Office last Tuesday.

As I was in my morning routine of misting the lizard eggs that Tuesday morning – I noticed one of the eggs had shriveled up a bit and a dark spot had developed on the top part of the egg.  Maybe I had misted the eggs too much and I thought they might be starting to mold.  It was Chris who first noticed the dark spot was not mold but was actually a protrusion which was emerging from the top! 

Miraculously, 59 days after Monster laid 24 eggs – the first baby beardie was in the process of hatching! 

The discovery traveled through the halls of the Museum like wildfire and the first hatchling was welcomed by Museum friends throughout the day!  We watched this little hatchling ease itself into this world through hours of intense struggle. 

By late afternoon, the hatchling – fully emerged – laid limp next to the empty shell of the protected life it had developed from.  Amazingly, it was totally camouflaged – the same as the color of the substrate the egg had been nestled in for over two months! 

Unsure if this little girl was actually going to make it – we patiently waited.  It couldn’t have been but an hour later, this limp little fragile body became a mini-mass full of energy and the little hatchling was racing from corner to corner inside of the protective incubator walls! 

Through the magnifying glass, we studied every inch of this new creature. Her delicate toes, her wondering eyes, the perfectly laced frill circling her body to the intricate design of the pattern of her scales – the perfection of this creation amazed us all!  From her delicate features and her gentle personality, we agreed she was a girl.  If Monster and Leonardo only knew the miracle they had created!

So incredibly satisfied with the birth of this baby beardie, little were we expecting the revelation that took place through out the rest of the week!  Like clockwork, each new life chose his or her day to enter this world.  The second hatchling chose Wednesday.  Feisty, inquisitive and full of energy – we decided this one was a boy.  The third chose Thursday, and two chose to hatch on Friday!  We were elated by the end of the week – five babies had entered our world!

At the arrival of the first baby, I contacted Kathy and Leo.  This incredible team – a mother and her son, who have been sharing their passion of the animal world through their volunteer commitment at HMNS for years now.  It was their incubator they shared with me, along with the guidance and knowledge from their own personal experience in breeding and raising not only bearded dragons – but a multitude of critters! 

My first concern was how long these babies could exist without eating.  What else could I offer them, since days after introducing mini-crickets – the babies were still not eating.  I learned that surprisingly, newborns can exist for days while still absorbing the yolk for nutrition from which they developed! 

It was truly astonishing to see how active these little guys were in their first days of life without even consuming their first real ‘meat and potato meal’ on earth!  Kathy and Leo supplied me with a tiny ‘pot of gold,’ consisting of a live assortment of tiny beetles and mini-worms that were the most active I’ve ever seen! 

Now I know from my own experience – that crickets, even the tiniest of all, are too fast for newborn beardies – or possibly it could be those wiggly cricket antennas are just plain frightening!  I think it could just be something about the wiggle of a worm that attracts baby beardies!  That first meal for our first babies was consumed Saturday – that time was truly monumental!  They had chosen to live after all!

The hatchlings seemed to adapt well to their new habitat – a 10 gallon aquarium, layered with calcium enriched reptile sand, featuring a prominent rock that dwarfed the little critters as its scale appeared mountainous to their newborn size!  We soon found this little mountain would become the corner stone of life for the new beardie clan.

Friday afternoon, the incubator, the new beardie habitat and the ‘mighty miracle mister’ headed back home with me for the weekend.  Positioned in the same spot on my kitchen counter, the once quiet incubator seemed to have come to life in the past days,  Though it still sat so quietly in the same spot – it seemed to have taken on a whole new song.  As it had become so at work – the incubator and the remaining eggs were all that seemed to exist in our minds.

By Monday morning, February 9 – the new beardie clan was welcomed back at the Museum as a family of eight!  As a final encore, the last baby hatched that afternoon.

Still awaiting its future journey is one lone beardie dragon lizard egg.  Next to it lay two recently introduced gecko eggs Kathy and Leo brought in to join the crew in the incubator on their visit last week.  As I mist them daily, I no longer question if the miracle of life is happening – I now treasure the thought of what is to come.

Though we struggle with the thought and the emotions of our babies graduating and moving on – we also want to share the pleasure and the fascination we have with these fine creatures.  We know that discoveries are truly made daily at the Houston Museum of Natural Science!

Now, we want to offer a chance for our extended family – you – to offer a good home to one of our beardie babies, if interested and qualified.  Nothing could better support the Museum and our mission than a donation towards the HMNS Capital Campaign

Our babies are up for adoption – but only if you promise to provide a good, nurturing and loving home to one of them!  With only eight babies available, we will have a drawing in the Volunteer Office Friday, March 6 at 12 pm.  If you are interested in the possibility of owning one of our HMNS home-grown baby beardies, please feel free to stop by the Volunteer Office to put your name in the drawing – or send an e-mail to blogadmin@hmns.org.

If your name is drawn, you will receive your baby beardie as a gift with your donation of $40 to the HMNS Capital Campaign!  Please join us at 12 pm for the drawing this Friday!

Making Baby Bearded Dragons

Today’s post is written by Sibyl Keller, a volunteer recruiter and educational coordinator at HMNS. Today, she tells us about the bearded dragons that live in her office, and what happens when another one comes to visit. 

Sibyl, holding Leonardo.

So…what’s happening in the Volunteer Office other than recruiting new volunteers, interviewing new talents, filling tours, booking docents, scheduling on-going training, handling birthday parties, writing college recs, and just keeping up with the hopping pace around HMNS?  Natural science – that’s what! it’s been happening under our noses – and keeping us all intrigued and inspired by how incredible the animal world is!

It all happened when Chris and Erin adopted their first baby – Monster, a beautiful young female bearded dragon!  Draco and Leonardo are the (lizard) kings of the Volunteer Office.  Draco is a handsome beardie – a gentleman of almost ten years.  And I was fortunate to adopt Leonardo – a young chap beardie of two years this last summer.  And then Monster arrived for a visit.

It was love at first sight -Leo and Monster couldn’t keep their eyes off of each other!  And if you have never seen beardies put on their mating dance – it is an incredibly captivating event. Leo – so eager to impress his new friend – totally bearded out with a solid heavy black coloration under his chin (it is this behavior that gives the species the name “bearded dragon.”)  Between the black beard and the head bobbing with determination – Monster was truly moved! She began waving gracefully, first with one arm, then the other. 

Even with an office full of museum staff watching the mating dance, you could have heard a pin drop until Chris expressed that…this was kind of weird…He didn’t don’t know if it is a good weird or a bad weird!

Unfortunately, I don’t have a video of our beardies dancing, but I found a video of another beardie bobbing away.

So when Chris left with the HMNS Paleo Team to head to Seymour, Texas on the Fossil Dig five weeks ago – I got to babysit Monster for a couple of weeks!  So – here we are, 5 weeks later (which happens to be the gestation period for beardies) – hummmmm…

Can you see the eggs?

After mixing together a nice compost for Monster, Googling to find out what beardies like for a nest – the waiting game began!  Day after day, Monster redistributed her compost from one side of her habitat to the other.  She started practicing her digging skills in between warming her growing belly on her heat rock.  Karen (my fellow volunteer coordinator) described her well – what a keen resemblance Monster had to a Portobello mushroom!  And – what an appetite!  Crickets, juicy superworms, carrots and collard greens – of course, the crickets were presented to her with a nice coat of calcium for the mother to be.

Then last week – the discovery was made!  After a long night – it must have been, Monster had created a mountain from her compost on top of her heat rock and was playing king of the mountain just about all morning.  It wasn’t until she got a superworm treat that she would inch away from her mountain!  My work began. 

Karen Fritz, marking the eggs.

Carefully sifting through the compost a little at a time – I was in search of the mother load – a nest of beardie eggs – Monster’s first clutch.  Totally amazed that not an egg was found, I started to think that she didn’t look so much like a Portobello mushroom, there were no eggs – maybe my imagination just got the best of me.  The Princess was so lethargic, I started to worry that maybe she was sick. 

After watching her all day, I felt better when she had a healthy appetite.  I decided to start sifting some of the mulch out of her habitat – as ingesting any of this could be very harmful to her.  As I cleaned her aquarium, I lifted her large heat rock and the discovery was made!  We hit the jackpot with 24 small marshmallow-size beardie eggs!  It is truly amazing that this little lizard knew just what to do to keep her clutch warm.  I cannot even imagine how she was able to dig out the dirt under her heat rock to lay 24 eggs without crushing them!  Nature is amazing.

How did this little Princess lay 24 eggs?!  Well – from the Internet, I discovered it was not at all uncommon for a Bearded Dragon to lay up to 30 – 50 eggs in a clutch!  But – the female wouldn’t necessarily lay all of the eggs at one time.  She could choose to lay a couple of eggs one week, one or two a week later – and as the process continues – it could be months before the whole clutch was laid!  Dang – that meant I would be spending quite a time of the Christmas holiday egg-sitting in the Volunteer Office at HMNS!  Lucky for me — and I’m sure happily for her — Monster laid all 24 eggs during one evening after hours, probably while the music played and laughter was heard during holiday celebrations taking place through out the exhibit halls up above!

The eggs, with black lines to
mark their original positions.

You might notice black lines imprinted along the length of each egg from top to bottom.  The lines were introduced by Karen Fritz, my Volunteer Office co-partner in crime, who has a smooth and steady hand and a good sharpie!  I learned of this process from me earlier research.  It is extremely important to not rotate or change the position of the eggs while moving them.  After carefully uncovering the eggs, Karen marked each egg in order for us to move them in this order.  She wanted to mark them 1, 2, 3…up to 24 — until she understood we just needed a line to identify top and bottom of each egg!  If any eggs were turned upside down, it would surely damage or kill the developing embryo.  We then placed them in small deli cup containers filled with dampened vermiculite that would hold moisture throughout their time of incubation.

Eggs, in the incubator – where they
will stay until they hatch!

As the incubator is quietly protecting these little jewels for 60 to 70 days, Monster is now far away from her little 2 week vacation spent in the Volunteer Office.  She is back home with Erin and Chris – I understand with a frisky new way about her and a grand new appetite!

Monster at home