What is a reptile? When you think of reptiles, what animal comes to mind? Is it a snake? How about a turtle? Or maybe a crocodile? Well, in truth, all those animals are reptiles. But, what is a reptile? A reptile is a cold-blooded animal that has tough skin made of plates or scales. So, contrary to popular belief, reptiles aren’t slimy; amphibians are. There are several kinds of reptiles. Scientists have categorized reptiles into four groups: Crocodilia, Sphenodontia, Squamata, and Testudines. The Squamata category, which includes snakes and lizards, has approximately 7,900 reptiles in it, while the Sphenodontia category has only two reptiles, both of which are reptiles known as tuatara, found only in New Zealand. Testudines are tortoises and turtles, and Crocodilias are crocodiles, gharials, caimans and alligators.

Slow and Steady! What’s slow, carries a big shell, and has no teeth? A turtle, of course. Everyone knows what a turtle is, but what about the tortoise? The turtle and tortoise are very similar, so it’s easy to confuse the two. However, like a lot of things, there are differences. For instance, a turtle has flippers, a flat shell and lives in the ocean. A tortoise has stumpy feet and lives on land. Also, turtles eat sea creatures and tortoises eat plants. Another difference is the speed. Both turtles and tortoises are slow on land (the tortoise going 3/10 mph.), but in the water, a turtle can go 19 mph.

Although we don’t know the full life span of a turtle, there are some who live to be at least 100 years old. Others barely make it to 70.

Even though turtles mainly live in the ocean, there are some that live in the desert. These turtles have really adapted to this environment, since they can go a full year with one sip of water!

Cold-blooded Snake! Hiss-s-s-s. Rattle. Slither. Can you name an animal that would do any of these things? What’s that? Right on! It’s a snake! Snakes are most likely the most recognizable reptile in the world. Everyone knows that there are dangerous snakes, but there are also harmless ones. One example is the scarlet king snake. On first glance, it resembles the very dangerous coral snake. But don’t be fooled. The coral snake has a stripe pattern of yellow, red, yellow, black. The scarlet king has a pattern of yellow, black, red, black. Most animals look alike, one being poisonous, the other, safe. But when you’re dealing with snakes, it’s best not to mess with them, even if they’re safe to handle.

There are other kinds of snakes. There are pythons, boas, cobras, bushmasters, anacondas and vipers. Most snakes have poison in their fangs, but that’s not the case with anacondas, boas and pythons. The reason for this is because they’re constrictors. This means that they crush their prey with their powerful coils. Fun facts: a full-grown python can eat an animal as large as a deer and an anaconda can grow to be 33 ft. long and weigh as much a cow! The gaboon viper, found in African forests, produces the most venom. It also has the longest fangs-at up to 2 in. in length! It’s body colors camouflage it among leaf litter. If you look closely, you’ll see the whole snake. If not, it looks like a thin snake with an insanely huge head!

One last fact: Snakes don’t have eyelids. To protect their eyes, they have a see-through scale over them. This scale is replaced just like every other scale, so when the snake sheds its skin, the old eye-scale goes as well.

Snakes may not have legs, but they’ve got a backbone! In fact, a snake has 400 bones in their backbone! Yes, there are a lot of interesting things about snakes, but remember: Snakes are not for playing with- at least, real snakes aren’t.

How’s it going, Mr. Alligator? Look! In the water! What is that? It looks like a crocodile, but it could be an alligator. It turns its head, and you see huge teeth, both on the top and bottom, sticking out of the animal’s mouth. What was that creature? The reptile in question was a crocodile. How do we know this? Because when a crocodile has its mouth closed, it shows teeth from the top and bottom. An alligator has teeth sticking out from just the top. Another difference is that crocodiles have a soft spot on their bellies, while alligators have them around their jaws.

Warning: Do NOT try this! There are some people who wrestle alligators, but don’t try it. Those people know what they’re doing. At least I hope so. And the main reason they can fight a gator is that the muscles an alligator uses to open its mouth are weak. So weak, a person can hold a gator’s mouth shut with one hand. But the gator wrestler has to be careful. The opening muscles of a gator’s mouth may be weak, but the closing muscles are strong enough to crush a deer with one chomp! One wrong move, and the person is gator food!

Crocodilias are the smallest of the four categories of reptiles- with only 22 species. Included in this group are crocodiles, alligators and caimans.

Because reptiles are usually cold-blooded, crocodiles bask in the sun to raise their temperature. And if they get too hot, they simply open their mouths and let the breeze flow through.

Like a fly on the Wall- or maybe like a Lizard! Weird subtitle, isn’t it? I thought so, but there is truth in it. There are some lizards that can walk on the walls. For an example, let’s use the gecko. The one I’m talking about won’t do a thing to help with your car insurance, but it can end up on your ceiling. This is because they have ridged pads on the bottom of their feet. These pads are made up of hooked hairs that help the gecko get a good grip on surfaces. There are other types of lizards- newts, chameleons, komodo dragons, and iguanas, just to name a few. Scientists believe that there are at least 3,800 types of lizard! Did you know that the komodo dragon is the world’s biggest lizard? It’s true. Komodo dragons can grow to three feet and length, and are very dangerous. No animal and/or person bitten by a komodo dragon will live much longer, so proceed with caution- or don’t proceed at all!

Have you heard that chameleons change color according to their mood? Well, it’s not true.Chameleons do change color, but it’s a form of protection. A chameleon will change colors according to its surroundings, not its mood. Also, chameleons have super long tongues. In fact, the tongue of a chameleon is as long as the chameleon’s body! Imagine what you could do with a tongue that long.

Reptiles are everywhere, unless you’re in Antarctica. They come in many different shapes and sizes, and are very cool. There are lots that can be learned about reptiles. This page just covers some things. And the cool part is, there’s going to be a time when we could learn everything about and every type of reptile. Now wouldn’t that be cool?