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Old 29 November 2008, 05:05 PM
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snopes snopes is offline
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 109,653
Icon81 To kill a lizard, turn it on its back

Comment: I have heard that turning a lizard over on its back will kill it
because it puts pressure on the diaphragm which stops it from breathing,
although it was my understanding that with rare exceptions lizards do not
have diaphragms. In searching for this topic I can only find forums
repeating the rumor (often passionately), with no mention of where they
got it from.
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Old 29 November 2008, 05:28 PM
Mycroft Mycroft is offline
Join Date: 29 January 2006
Location: Portsmouth, UK
Posts: 1,309

I doubt if it is true for lizards in general, but most species of tortoise/turtle will have problems if placed on their back as their legs are not long enough for them to right themselves and they would eventually die from starvation and/or exposure (when sailors used to catch Galapagos Giant Tortoises or Sea Turtles they used to turn them onto their backs, and return when convenient to collect them as they would not have been able to move. They were then stored alive on theirs backs in the ship so that the meat was fresh). Lizards of course do not have shells, and so are much more flexible and would be able to right themselves.
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Old 29 November 2008, 11:01 PM
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NeeCD NeeCD is offline
Join Date: 15 August 2005
Location: Wilsonville, OR
Posts: 2,385

Turning lizards on their backs has the same effect as turning birds onto their backs, it makes them calm (if done correctly). When we had lizards, my ex used to do this to trim their claws. I've never heard this rumor before, and in fact, at least one lizard book we had recommended this method so the lizard wouldn't get stressed (which is much more dangerous than flipping them). No cites, unfortunately, since all my lizard books are deeply buried in a box somewhere in the garage.
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Old 30 November 2008, 04:13 AM
catty5nutz catty5nutz is offline
Join Date: 22 January 2007
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
Posts: 1,649

Has anyone ever read the book "You Belong in a Zoo!" I can't remember who the author is, but it is a about a guy was reptile mad, got a job in the Bronx Zoo, and wound up becoming a reptile expert. At that time, it was not known how to handle reptiles so that they would be calm, and it is possible that this guy discovered that turning reptiles on their backs made them calm.
In one instance, the zoo was trying to discover what gender their resident alligators were. So, they got about ten or so of the alligators, flipped them on their backs, and had them lined up in a row. The alligators were then all sleepy and relaxed, and the zoo staff could go along at their leisure, and have a feel inside the gator's cloaca's to see what gender they were.

It must have been quite something to see.
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Old 30 November 2008, 04:15 AM
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Towknie Towknie is offline
Join Date: 25 September 2005
Location: Lewisville, TX
Posts: 5,577

When I was a kid, I used to catch little lizards and do the ole' rub their stomachs to put them to sleep trick. To this day I wonder why that worked.
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Old 30 November 2008, 05:08 PM
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LyndaD LyndaD is offline
Join Date: 14 December 2005
Location: Visalia, CA
Posts: 2,323

MissBud, my iguana, can and will flip herself over if she ends up on her back. It does not seem to make her sleepy or relaxed, and because of her spines is probably rather uncomfortable.
If for some reason she can't flip herself over (she has limited use of her hind legs), she will eventually quit struggling and just lie there, but it doesn't look like she will go to sleep. When I turn her over she shakes her head and glares at me, then goes about her lizardy business.
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