Reptiles are remarkable creatures. They’ve survived for millions of years. There’s about 6 500 species in all, and have adapted to the changing world, and still survive today on every continent except Antarctica. All reptiles have scales, made from keratin, the same material found in your finger nails and hair. Though many people believe so, newts and salamanders aren’t reptiles, but amphibians. Being cold-blooded, and their body heat depending on their surroundings, they tend to flourish more in warmer environments. Most reptiles lay eggs, but some are born live.
There are about four different kinds of reptiles; crocodilians, snakes, lizards, turtles and tortoises.
Crocodilians: Alligators, crocodiles, gharials, and caimans belong to this group of reptiles. A basic description of a crocodilian would be: a long sleek body, covered with hard and bony scales. From birth to death, they never stop growing, and are thought to be the smartest of all reptiles.
Crocodilians can remain underwater for over an hour, and they are strong swimmers. They use their powerful tails to propel them forward, but when floating, only the eyes, ears and nostrils are positioned above water.
Alligator: This is a very fierce and aggressive animal. It will attack large animals, and is very dangerous to humans. It has a rounded snout, at the end of a slightly triangular head. An alligator’s teeth rest on the inside of its jaw. Alligator babies look exactly like their parents, except smaller. When the babies are small, the mom will carry them on her back, or sometimes in her mouth! When babies are born, they’re about 12 inches long, but will soon grow to about 20 feet long, and weigh as much as 2 000 pounds!
Crocodiles: Crocodiles have an even more triangular head then alligators, and aren’t quite as big. Like all crocodilians, they swallow their food whole. Then what are all those teeth for? If their prey is too large, they’ll use their teeth to grab it, then pull it underwater until it drowns. After it has drowned, they rip it into tiny pieces so they can swallow it. Crocodiles often loose their teeth when hunting, that is why it continually grows new ones. One crocodile can go through about 50 sets of teeth in a lifetime!
Caimans: These are a lot more rare then the other crocodilians. They live in Central and South America, and are closely related to alligators.
Gharial: The gharial has a slender snout and a bulb like nose. It has about 160 teeth, which are all the same size. The gharial eats fish up to 20 feet long! Though fierce-looking, this endangered crocodilian is really quite shy and timid.
Snakes: These are interesting, multi-patterned colorful creatures. Though many believe it is true, snakes are not slimy, but just have shiny skin, which they shed regularly. There are about 2 700 species of snake alive today, making their homes on land, underwater, underground, and in trees.
Food : By unhinging its jaws, a snake is able to swallow prey larger then the size of its mouth. They usually dine on:
And other snakes
Defences: Snakes are predators, but they are still hunted. That is why many are equipped with some sort of protection. Some snakes, like the harmless hognosed snake, find it easier to protect themselves without having to move. Like a dog, it turns over and plays dead. But many snakes aren’t so risky, they have themselves a pare of really sharp teeth. There are about 800 species of poisonous snakes. Only 250 of which are dangerous to humans.
King Cobra: This 18-foot terror is the longest poisonous snake in the world, and has venom strong enough to kill an elephant. When threatened, the King Cobra will raise its body off the ground, and spread the loose skin on its neck into a “hood” shape several times wider than its body. Baby cobras are just as aggressive. With tiny fangs and venom, they will strike while they’re still hatching from their shells.
Have you ever seen or heard of the trick where someone plays a flute, and a snake comes out of a basket? This is not because the snake hears the music, snakes don’t have ears! They are disturbed by the vibrations from the flute.
Lizards: Lizards are by far the largest group of reptiles, approximately 3 500 species in all. Some lizards don’t have legs, and look like small snakes…or large worms! Lizards range from an inch-long gecko, to a ten foot Komodo dragon.
Iguanas: Iguanas come in many colors, shapes and sizes. Some like to live in groups, sometimes you may see over 40 of them sunning themselves in forests and desserts where they live. They live in Central and South America, and some have adapted to living in salt water. Many people have iguanas as pets, and many people don’t realize exactly how much work they are.
Komodo Dragons: These fierce 350 pound lizards are found only on a few small islands in Indonesia. They are the largest living lizard in the world. When feeding, the Komodo dragons jaw works so hard, that it needs new sets of teeth each year. It has been known to attack and kill humans, but normally preys on deer and wild boar.
Tortoises and turtles: Turtles and tortoises are the only reptiles with shells, there are about 250 species in their category. Their shells have protected them so well that turtles have remained practically unchanged on earth, for over 200 million years! But a shell does not protect from everything, they tend to live in warmer climates.
Tortoise: Tortoises, unlike turtles, usually stay out of water their whole lives. The Gallopagos tortoise can grow up to 4 feet, and get up to 600 pounds in weight. They have strong thick legs and a sturdy shell. Tortoises live longer then any other animal. They have been known to live up to 150 years!
Turtles: What does the name turtle mean? The name turtle refers to animals that live in fresh-water lakes, rivers, ponds and streams. And, turtles that spend time on land are called tortoises. Turtles that live in the ocean are called Sea Turtles. Their shells are made out of either a layer of hard leathery skin, or plates called scutes. The pattern keeps getting larger as the turtle grows, and each species has its own distinct pattern.