Practical investigation of cricket dust supplements commonly used to enhance diets provided to insectivore species under human care.

Amphibians  and  reptiles  commonly  managed  under  human  care  are  commonly  fed  farmed  feeder  crickets  (Acheta  domesticus)  that  are  deficient  in  calcium.  Calcium  deficiency  can  lead  to  the  development  of  nutritional  metabolic  bone  disease  in  animals  consuming  the  crickets;  therefore,  feeder  crickets  are  commonly  supplemented  with  calcium  by  either  dusting  the  crickets’exoskeleton  or  by  providing  crickets  with  a  calcium  enriched  diet. ...

Development of an artificial diet to support conservation efforts of the Atala Hairstreak Butterfly (Eumaeus atala)

The rare atala  hairstreak  butterfly  (Eumaeus  atala)  is  native  to  Florida,  and  coontie,  a  small  cycad,  is  its  only  native  host  plant.  In  the  early  1900’s,  coontie  was  eradicated  due  to  unsustainable  agricultural  practices,  so  atala  populations  plummeted.    The  butterfly  was  thought  to  be  extinct  in  the  mid-1900s  but  has  seen  a  comeback  since  its  rediscovery  near  Miami  in  the ...

Body Condition Scoring Resource Center

  The following body condition scoring (BCS) scales have been obtained from a variety of sources.  We have credited the authors where we can, and encourage you to submit newly developed or modified scales or corrections to attributions.

The following body condition scoring (BCS) scales have been obtained from a variety of sources.  We have credited the authors where we can, and encourage you to submit newly developed or modified scales or corrections to attributions.

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Pangolins, Aardvarks, & Xenarthrans (Sloths, Anteaters, Armadillos)
Reptiles & Amphibians

About BCS Scales

Body condition scoring (BCS) is a subjective measurement of an animal’s muscle definition and superficial fatty tissue.BCS for Zoo Animals

BCS has been used for many years in the livestock industry to improve the productivity, health, reproduction and longevity of herds.  BCS has become increasingly common in zoological settings for many of the same reasons.  Our greatest challenge in zoos is to develop practical systems or scales for the diverse species with which we work.  Some scales have been well-developed and validated, while others remain works in progress.  The NAG encourages the careful and thoughtful development of new scales, the refinement of those that already exist, and the diligent attention to their implementation for the good of the animals in our care.

About BCS Scales

Body condition scoring scales are numerical, and they typically range from 1 (emaciated) to either 5 or 9 (obese).  When using a 5-point scale, many people will assign half points (2.5 or 4.5 out of 5), which effectively turns the 5 point scale into a 9 point scale.  Whenever possible, we recommend the use of a 9 point scale.


Implications of BCS Scores


Low BCS scores have been associated with lowered reproductive success, poor recovery from illness, and may be a sign of disease or age.  High BCS scores have been associated with an increased risk of dystocia (difficulty giving birth), reproductive disorders, arthritis, diabetes, and other chronic conditions (Chan-McLeod et al. 1994; Burkholder 2000; Aeberhard et al. 2001; Busato et al. 2002; Berry et al. 2007; Boudreau 2012).  Despite the known risks of being too far at either end of the BCS spectrum, a BCS score should be non-judgmental.  You may be pleased that an animal recovering from a serious illness has moved from a 2 to a 3 (on a 9-pt scale), yet worry that a healthy animal has dropped from a 4 to a 3.  You may be glad that an obese animal has dropped from an 8 to a 5, yet endeavor to raise an animal preparing for hibernation from a 5 to an 8 or 9 (which may be “normal,” physiologically, for the species in question).  Keep in mind that just because it may be “normal” for a species to be over-conditioned at a specific time of year or life stage, this does not impact the BCS scale (a score of 8/9 remains 8/9, even if declared “appropriate” in terms of animal management; the scale does not “slide” to make that over-conditioned animal a 5/9). In addition, the scale is does not slide for growing, geriatric, or pregnant animals (regardless of stage of life, metabolic status, etc, the scale is designed to assess condition as objectively as possible).

Tips for Body Condition Scoring

  • BCS is best learned and implemented through consistent practice.  Often, it helps to have multiple staff involved at the start (animal managers, keepers, veterinarians, nutritionists, etc.) to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding terminology, anatomy, and the scoring system being used.  In the end, however, it is often best to have a limited number of scorers so that consistency can be maintained.  In addition, having someone who does not see the animals every day perform the scoring can be helpful.
  • Scorers should be familiar with the anatomy of each species.  If multiple scorers are utilized, they should be objectively evaluated for consistency with the same animals.  It can be helpful to note the initials of the scorer when a BCS is performed and recorded.
  • Although there are many different systems/scales (even for a single species), it is a good idea to pick one scoring system for each species and stick with it.  This allows for increased familiarity and proficiency, over time.
  • BCS is a particularly useful tool for animals that aren’t very tractable or for those who are unable to be weighed regularly.  If body weights are available, BCS acts as a complementary assessment for management purposes.  Ensure that the interval between BCS is reasonable and practical.
  • For growing animals, body weights can be paired with appropriate growth curves to assess development. However, body weights in growing individuals often vary, even within species, and may not be the best assessment of growth. In these cases, BCS can be used not only to assess appropriate growth, but also to establish target weights for individuals.
  • If your species of interest does not have a scale established, please consider developing one.  If you do, look at those that have already been thoughtfully developed. Ideal BCS scales are easy to use, distinguish biologically relevant changes in status, provide enough description that multiple observers will obtain similar results, and, ideally, have been validated through other means (ultrasound, TOBEC, necropsy).  Photographs and drawings should clearly show points of interest and be coupled with clear written descriptions.   The NAG encourages you to share your systems by presenting a poster or presentation at our conference, or publishing in another format that can be accessed by the zoo community.

If you know of additional published resources for this page, we encourage you to submit them for potential inclusion:

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A review of the nutrient content of commercial feeder insects and strategies for increasing their nutrient content

Insects are an important source of nutrients for a wide variety of captive insectivores including many reptiles and amphibians. Nutrient analysis of many of the more common commercially available feeder insects has now been published. These data are reviewed and discussed in light of the fact that unlike many free ranging animals, insectivores in captivity are fed a limited number...

Considerations to maximize nutrient supplementation of feeder insects

Providing a nutritionally appropriate diet to amphibians and other insectivores under human care has long proved challenging. The number of available insect species is limited and typically deficient in key nutrients such as calcium and vitamin A. Until more nutritionally balanced options are available, actions should be undertaken to improve the nutritional quality of feeder insects such as the domestic...

Gut loading as a method to effectively supplement crickets with calcium and vitamin A

Limited quantities of vital nutrients such as calcium and vitamin A in crickets have led to the occurrence of diseases such as rickets, osteomalacia, metabolic bone disease (calcium deficiency) and more recently, squamous metaplasia or “short tongue syndrome” in amphibians. Gut loading has been an effective method to supplement feeder crickets with both calcium and vitamin A. A dose of...

Vitamin A supplementation via cricket dusting: the effects of dusting fed and fasted crickets of three sizes using two different supplements on nutrient content

This study was undertaken to determine the efficacy in delivering vitamin A supplementation via dusting feed crickets (Acheta domestica) to reptiles and amphibians, many of whom have shown vitamin A deficiencies at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and other institutions. While there have been multiple previous studies regarding supplementation in crickets, the majority have focused on calcium supplementation. Levels of vitamin A...