by Freight Freitas
Gonyo eggs tend to have a very tough outer shell, which can make it difficult to impossible for babies to hatch. With artificial incubation it has been difficult to emulate the exact conditions, which allow unimpaired hatching of all fertile eggs. Instead of leaving things to chance, which often ends up in disaster, many of us Gonyo enthusiasts choose to take matters into our own hands.
Egg surgery has become an integral part of the incubation and hatching process. Once the first egg has pipped I use a very fine curved scissor and a fine tipped tweezer to gently open all eggs. I generally like to do this at the highest end of the egg relatively close to the tapered end, so as not to lose much of the cytoplasmic fluid (viscous egg liquid) inside. When I say the highest end I’m referring to the fact that the eggs are generally adhered to each other and are often laid on an angle relative to the way they have been positioned on the substrate. So, there is often an end of the egg that sits higher, and the baby is usually located mostly in the lower end of the egg. If there is not a high end then just pick the most convenient end to open. I simply drill a tiny hole into the egg with one blade of the scissor, and then at a very low angle almost horizontal to the egg I make tiny snips to cut open a small section of the shell. I make two cuts diagonally from each other from the initial hole and form a V-shaped opening in the egg, all the while pealing the egg shell back slightly with the tweezers. The scissor blade that is inserted into the egg requires that upward pressure be kept on it at all times, so that the tip stays just under the shell surface, and thusly away from the baby inside. I usually start with ¾”-1” long cuts so I can peel back the shell slightly to see what’s going on inside before doing irreparable damage to the egg.
For babies that have already pipped (sliced the egg shell) I suggest cutting a window in the egg and removing a part of the top eggshell to expose the baby. It is then imperative to locate the baby’s head to be sure it surfaces to breath. Failure to do this can easily result in a drowned baby. If the head is not immediately apparent I simple stroke the baby with the smooth back of the scissor and carefully chase them around in the egg till the head surfaces. It is sometimes easy to locate the head by watching for surface bubbles. It appears that respiration begins just prior to emergence, and thusly there may be bubbles visible in the cytoplasm.
For eggs that have not yet pipped cutting open an initial flap of shell, as stated above, and then carefully peeling it back to look inside the egg with a small flashlight is advisable. At this point you will see one of only a few different things. If the baby is not yet ready to hatch you will see a white membrane (allantois) recessed slightly within the egg. If this is the case, simply close the flap and re-check frequently, as it may not be long till the baby emerges. If you see green, or with colored oxycephala whatever color they may be, then the baby is close to hatching. However, there are two distinctions to be made. The first is that if you see the baby, but there is a thin transparent vascular membrane (amnion) still surrounding the baby it is advisable to leave things alone for a while. This membrane is imbedded with a network of tiny vessels, which have blood flow, and damage to this membrane can result in the baby bleeding to death. One must take great care not to disrupt this membrane when opening eggs. If you open the egg flap and see the baby’s scales vividly with no vascular membrane, then the baby is pretty much ready to hatch. This is the point where I usually open a window in the egg, stroke the baby with the smooth back of the curved scissors to see if its responsive, and then try to find the head. The last possible scenario is that you open the egg and the inside is milky and grayish, or bloody, and may possibly smell bad as well. This is when true disappointment sets in, as the baby would have died in the egg.
Egg surgery is not for everyone. It takes great care, incredible hand-eye coordination, and a lot of patience. It is however the route many must go to insure hatching of Gonyo eggs. The actual opening of eggs has many times been one of the most important steps during the incubation and hatching process. Personally, I will not sit idly by wondering if my babies are drowning in their eggs as a result of the inability to release themselves, but instead provide them with much needed assistance. Oddly enough there are numerous accounts of eggs from freshly imported wild caught Gonyos being easily hatched at an array of temperatures. These eggs require no intervention whatsoever. However, all the rules change when eggs are laid from captive breeding. For some reason the c/b eggs don’t act like the w/c caught eggs, and require the surgical procedures listed above. They are also much more sensitive to temperature and moisture, and the entire procedure is much more perilous. Whether the changes occur as a result of temperature, moisture, weather, diet, living conditions, incubation substrate, air exchange, or any myriad of other factors is unknown, but there is a marked and significant difference in the overall incubation process.