There may be very few animals that are as unique as reptiles — and their forms, behavior, and variety add to that uniqueness. But what exactly are reptiles and what kinds of reptiles are there in the animal kingdom? This article will define reptiles and give a list of reptiles, as well as explore the types and characteristics of these interesting creatures.
What Are Reptiles?
Reptiles are a class of vertebrate animals that share similar characteristics such as scaly skin, cold-bloodedness, and the ability to lay eggs. They are found in all regions of the world except for the polar and tundra regions, those of extremely low temperatures.
Reptiles are ectothermic, meaning that they depend on sunlight and heat for their metabolism and energy. It follows that most reptile species are found in warm climates with abundant sunlight, such as deserts, rainforests, and tropical regions.
Reptiles are distinguished from mammals in that they do not have hair or give birth to live young, and also are not warm-blooded. Although some reptiles live mostly in or around water, reptiles are different from amphibians in that their young do not go through metamorphic growth stages.
The earliest known reptile, Hylonomus lyelli, originated about 312 million years ago. Reptiles are closely related to birds and more distantly related to mammals.
Types of Reptiles
There are four main types of reptiles with each group containing numerous species. The groups are known as Crocodilia, Sphenodontia, Squamata, and Testudines.
The Crocodilians are a family of reptiles that consists of alligators, caimans, crocodiles, and Gavialis (gharials). The Sphenodontia are a family of reptiles that consists of two species of tuataras found in New Zealand.
The Squamata family of reptiles consists of various species of lizards, snakes, and worm lizards. The Testudines are a family of reptiles that contain turtles, terrapins, and tortoises.
List of Reptiles
List of Reptiles
- Worm Lizard
Reptiles | Facts & Pictures
Crocodiles consist of large reptiles that live partially in waters in the Americas, Australia, Africa, and Asia. They are distinguishable from alligators in that they have a V-shaped snout.
There are only two species of alligators alive today, the American alligator (Alligator mississippienis) and the Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis). Unlike crocodiles, they have a U-shaped snout and overhanging teeth that fit into the lower jaw.
The Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) is just one of several (six) species of box turtle. It inhabits the eastern United States to the Great Lakes region and Texas.
The term “Terrapins” used to refer to any aquatic turtles, but now almost always refers to Malaclemys terrapin, or the Diamondback Terrapin. This species favors inland saltwater bodies of water and lives in marshes, estuaries, and lagoons.
Snakes are a group of reptiles that are notable for their lack of arms and legs. There are a total of 3,900 species of snake worldwide, inhabiting every continent except Antarctica.
Worm lizards are several species of lizard that belong to the family Amphisbaenia and have no arms or legs. Worm lizards have right lungs that are reduced in size, whereas true snakes have smaller left lungs.
The term “Tortoise” is used differently worldwide; in general, however, the category colloquially refers to slow-moving, hard-shelled, long-living species of the Testudines family. Some tortoises have been known to live for over 150 years, with records surpassing 250 years.
Caimans are smallish, short-snouted crocodilians that inhabit the Caribbean, Central, and South America. Their diet changes in composition as they age, but they can eat insects, lizards, amphibians, mammals, fish, and snakes.
The reptile group Gavialis consists of two species: the gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) and the false gharial (Tomistoma schelegelii). These species are long-snouted crocodilians that eat mostly fish, frogs, and crustaceans.
Tuataras are two species of reptiles that inhabit New Zealand and its surrounding islands. They are related to a family of reptiles that existed 200 million years ago — but whose members all but went extinct 60 million years ago.
Members of the Draco genus of reptiles are the only lizards that are known to “fly”. In actuality, they do not fly — but use their ribs (and the membrane between them) to glide from tree to tree.