Voluntary exposure of some western-hemisphere snake and lizard species to ultraviolet-B radiation in the field: how much ultraviolet-B should a lizard or snake receive in captivity?



Studies of voluntary exposure to ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation from the sun in the field were conducted in the southern US and Jamaica for 15 species of lizards and snakes occupying various habitats. Species were sorted into four zones of UVB exposure ranging from a median UV index of 0.35 for zone 1 to 3.1 for zone 4. Guidelines for UVB exposure in captivity of these and species occupying similar light environments are presented. Data for most species were collected during mid-day during the spring breeding season, which appeared to be the time of maximum exposure. For two species of Sceloporus studied more intensively there was significant variation of exposure among times of the day and among seasons. So, all-day studies over the entire active season are necessary to fully understand the pattern of natural exposure for a particular diurnal species. Environmental and body temperature and thermoregulation as well as UVB/vitamin D photoregulation influences exposure to UVB. Regressions allowing the inter-conversion of readings among some meters with different detector sensitivities are presented. Readings of natural sunlight predict the same photobiosynthetic potential for vitamin D as the same reading from artificial sources whose wavelength distribution within the UVB band of the source is comparable to that of sunlight. Research approaches to further increase our understanding of vitamin D and UVB use and requirements for squamate reptiles in captivity are outlined. Zoo Biol 29:317–334, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.