Reptile Activity Level

4.2 based on 9 ratings

Updated on Aug 12, 2013


Are reptiles more active in warmer temperatures?

Research Questions:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantagesof being cold blooded?
  • Are reptiles able to withstand the same range of temperatures that mammals are?


  • 10+ gallon terrarium
  • water dish
  • Substrate
  • Heater (preferably one with a dial)
  • Thermometer
  • Branches for the lizards to bask and climb on
  • Crickets
  • 3 or 4 social lizards (anoles are a good choice)

Talk to a science teacher or pet shop worker for information about how to care for lizards. Keep in mind that the lizards will need a home after the experiment, so make sure you are able to provide one for them when you are done. It may also be possible to borrow the lizards and the tank from a teacher, a friend, or even from a local pet shop that might be willing to support your scientific experiment.


  1. Set up your terrarium in a quiet corner where it will be unaffected by a draft.

  2. Begin by taking some general observation notes. Record the types of behavior the reptiles engage in.

  3. Think about what you know about reptiles and in particular about the species of reptile you are observing and generate a list of other behaviors the reptiles might engage in.

  4. Create a short hand based on these observation notes with one or two letter abbreviations for the different behaviors. This will be your key while you take field notes later. An example can be found at the bottom of this page.

  5. Record the time of the observation and the temperature in the tank.

  6. Observe the reptiles for 20-30 minutes at a time.

  7. During your observations, take a note every two minutes that tells you what each lizard is doing at that moment. You will probably confuse the lizards sometimes but that is okay. Use a chart such as the one below.

  8. Make observations only once or twice each day. Make sure you observe in the middle of the night as well as during the time that you are normally awake.

  9. Adjust the temperature in the tank so that you can observe different temperatures at different times. Try heating the tank up at night and cooling it down during the day. Experiment with different combinations of time and temperature.

  10. Try to keep all other variables the same. Using a heating pad instead of a lamp will eliminate light as a variable. Keeping the reptiles in a quiet room will eliminate the lizards’ distraction with the world outside their terrarium.

  11. Keep good notes and create additional shorthand terms as you need to.

  12. At the end of the experiment, compile the notes together and compare them by time of day as well as by temperature to see if there is a connection between temperature in the tank and the behavior of the reptiles.

Sample shorthand key

Looking at other Lizard
Standing on Two Legs

Observation notes

Time of day: 8:35 am

Temperature in tank: 82 degrees F

Lizard 1
Lizard 2
Lizard 3
Lizard 4
0 min
2 min
4 min
6 min
8 min
10 min
12 min
14 min
16 min
18 min
20 min


Reptiles are cold blooded animals which means their internal temperature is governed by the temperature outside. This gives them certain advantages over warm blooded mammals. For one thing, reptiles do not need to eat as often as mammals. They have an extremely low metabolism and some can easily go for weeks or months with no food. Reptiles also do not expend energy keeping their bodies warm like mammals do, which means that they need far fewer calories to survive. But being cold blooded has its disadvantages too, mainly that reptiles can get quite slow and lethargic if they become too cold. Their responses may be dramatically slowed which can put them in danger if they are approached by a predator. All reptiles are affected in some way by the external temperature, but factors such as hunger and time of day also play a role on the behavior of these animals.

Writer and educator Crystal Beran is rarely seen without a pen. Her adventures have brought her to four continents and her quest for answers has led her to discover more questions than she could fill all the pages with. She currently resides in Northern California, where she can be found sipping tea and writing books.

How likely are you to recommend to your friends and colleagues?

Not at all likely
Extremely likely