A close friend of mine is a really bright exotics vet with experience researching and managing snake collections. We were catching up today, and he mentioned a growing body of research and discussion within the zoological community on the very high prevalence of back problems in older snakes. Apparently San Diego zoo is/was planning a large scale study across their collection, but I haven’t been able to find any recent results.
He’s seeing arthritis at such high rates among 15+ y/o snakes that he strongly suspects a knock-on effect from persistent vitamin D deficiency (in addition to other things like low mobility). Early research focused largely on the prevalence of bacterial infection (bacterial osteoarthritis), but he thinks correlation has been assumed as causation. He’s found 10x increases in blood vD concentrations by regularly exposing snakes to UVB, and thinks the benefits likely map very closely to the research on vD in lizards and mammals (broadly beneficial, very important for bone health, and exposure during youth having the largest long-term impact).
His opinion is more than enough to get me thinking. I’m considering ways to set up my tanks with cycled UVB so that I can use them instead of racks to house my babies and juveniles through at least their first year.