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Chat Transcript
Jon Coote 12/15/99

Jeff Barringer - Welcome to the 3rd night of Chat week, we flew our guest in all the way from England tonight. Please welcome Jon Coote - Director of Research & Development at T-Rex. Jon's topic this evening is Embryonic learning by flavoring reptile eggs. Jon has written an article for tonight at
Jon Coote - Good evening everyone

JFORKS - I'd like to know more about your project of course, starting with the application of the flavoring itself.
Jon Coote - The flavor is painted onto the eggs during incubation on a daily basis for the last 2 weeks of incubation.

Bryann - Do you think it would work for most snakes? (especially green tree pythons)
Jon Coote - I think it would work for any egg laying snake. .

Jeanine - When I read the article in the Vivarium...I was blown away....very exciting....can you foresee any possible detrimental effects of painting eggs? Would you recommend this technique to the general Herp public at this time? Have you done much research with lizards?
Jon Coote - I don't see any problem with painting eggs at this time using artificial flavors as these do not degrade natural flavors. Yes, I would recommend it is going to revolutionize herpetoculture. No research with lizards at the time, but no reason to believe it would not work, as to date it has worked with all vertebrate animals tested.

Lori - What is the purpose of painted eggs?
Jon Coote - To teach the embryos to accept food with this flavor when they hatch. See

RyanG - Since this seems to work, does that mean that embryos flick their tongues during development?
Jon Coote - Probably not, because the flavor is passing through the surface of the shell and absorbed by the blood vessels.

SRAT - Six of ten crocs accepted the flavored food, was there an "unbasted" control group, and if so what percentage of the control group accepted the flavored food? .
Jon Coote - None.

JeffB - Assuming that strawberry flavoring worked with crocs, would it be conceivable that I could feed strawberries to my graybanded kings using this techniques?
Jon Coote - Yes possibly but, bear in mind the strawberry flavor used was artificial and probably is not that close to natural fresh strawberries.

JFORKS - You said earlier artificial flavors won't degrade natural, so does that mean you can't use another natural flavor to paint eggs? and how did you stumble upon this?
Jon Coote - Natural flavors run the risk of rotting the egg. Stumbled across this from an article in the Sunday Times newspaper here in the uk.

animals2go - Can more than one flavor be introduced per animal?
Jon Coote - Not been tried to be honest, but I guess you would have to use all the flavors together subsequently to get the hatchlings to feed.
animals2go - So if a mix of the flavors is used they may be able to pick the flavors out individually later?
Jon Coote - I guess not they would go for the mixture.

caolan - How often do you paint the eggs and for how long?
Jon Coote - The eggs are painted once per day for the last 14 days of incubation, Other intervals and times may also work but not yet studied.

CDEEJAY - Who decided to try this I mean it just sounds sow unfeasible to me how you would have figured this out? Why do you think it works? Does it work?
Jon Coote - Yes, the interest was in embryo learning from a psychological point of view. Seems to work for all vertebrates eg newborn human babies are repelled by garlic, but not if their mothers have ingested garlic regularly for the latter part of pregnancy. Garlic is one of the few flavors that can cross the placenta.

clay - Will the flavoring technique work for a lizard as good as snakes?
Jon Coote - There is no reason why it should not work as well for lizards as it does for snakes and crocs.

CDEEJAY - What have you tested it on and is it the only thing the animals want to eat?
Jon Coote - So far it has only been tested on crocs and cornsnakes.

Jeanine - I know t-rex makes products such as snake sausages...any plans for scenting eggs to specifically take artificial food items such as that?
Jon Coote - Snake Sausages are already flavored with mouse maker.

Jeffle - Is there any ongoing research with large sample sizes? 10 croc eggs isn't very convincing, statistically speaking, and corn snakes seem to not have very many problems when it comes to getting them to accept mice. I don't doubt the possibilities, just interested in the research and a more convincing project.
Jon Coote - It was a lot more than ten eggs, just that more than six out of ten preferred the flavored food. Do not have that data but assume a whole croc clutch.

RyanG - Have you experimented with "spot applications" as opposed to full coats? and would misting the eggs with the scent work just as well?
Jon Coote - The applications are spot rather than full coat. Sure, I guess misting would be great.

Bryann - When are you planning on doing another experiment?
Jon Coote - As soon as i have got eggs.

caolan - How does this affect the survival rate of the clutch of eggs because it sounds like it might drowned the babies?
Jon Coote - We are not using a lot of moisture, just spot painting it on.

CDEEJAY - Okay is this the only thing they want to eat besides there flavoring. Also when you said garlic could pass through placental walls would it be possible to concentrate such a strong formula that it could also pass the placental wall and be used on live bearing species. Also if you make crocs crave strawberries what happens to them as adults?
Jon Coote - Ok, Probably would not be the only thing there would eat, but the good thing would be that you could get them to eat what you wanted them to. Also when you mentioned garlic, this is the only known one so far.

ZooHerp - From what I am gathering, this could potentially lead to some good flied studies on reintroduction programs? That is, if embryonic learning is sound.
Jon Coote - True. This is what it is for with the crocs. We need people to get out there and try this.
ZooHerp - Do you think that live birth embryos can learn from this?
Jon Coote - Probably only with garlic. The problem is crossing the placenta or whatever.

CDEEJAY - If you turn a species food from on animal from another isn't it possible for nutrition deficiencies to occur for example snakes get vitamin D from there preys liver if you change there food wouldn't this hurt the nutritional needs?
Jon Coote - No, virtually all vertebrate prey has the same nutritional value.

BillC - Jon Coote - today I read that you wrote an article for vivarium about bearded dragons. My question is, how involved are you with bearded dragons, and have you published anything to do with color morphs, pogona species, or history in the pet trade?
Jon Coote - Yes, thousands of bearded dragons including leucistic. Give me your email address and I will write to you.

JFORKS - alright everyone give Jon a great big hand and thank him for graciously joining us for chatweek99
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