What You Must Know About Reptiles

What You Must Know About Reptiles
Do you like to lie in
the sun in the summertime? What if you had to stay in the hot sun just to keep
your body warm? What if you had to stretch out on hot rocks just to keep from

Reptiles have to find
sunny spots to keep warm. They need shady spots to cool off. Your body can stay
at about the same temperature. It makes heat from food to warm up. Your body
sweats when it needs to cool off. You are warm-blooded.
Reptiles are cold-blooded.
Their bodies are the same temperature as the air or water around them. Reptiles
cannot make body heat. They cannot sweat to cool off.
Scientific classification: Reptiles make up the class Reptilia, which is divided into four
orders: Testudines, which contains turtles, terrapins, and tortoises; Squamata,
which contains lizards, worm lizards, and snakes; Crocodilia, which contains
crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and gavials; and Rhynchocephalia, which
contains two species of tuatara.

Reptiles are vertebrates
(animals with backbones). Alligators and crocodiles, lizards, snakes, and
turtles are the main groups of reptiles. Strange animals called worm lizards
and tuatara also are reptiles. There are more than 7,000 species (kinds) of
reptiles that belong to these groups.
Alligators, crocodiles,
lizards, and snakes have tough skin covered with scales. Turtles have shells on
their backs.
There are more lizards
than any other kind of reptile. There are more than 4,300 different lizard
There are big reptiles
and small reptiles. A tiny lizard called the Monito gecko is about 1 inches
(3.5 centimeters) long. The giant leatherback sea turtle has a shell that can
be 8 feet (2.4 meters) long. It can weigh more than 2,000 pounds (900
kilograms). That is about as much as a small car weighs.
The biggest lizard is
a monitor lizard called the Komodo dragon. It can be nearly 10 feet (3 meters)
long and weigh about 365 pounds (165 kilograms).
What You Must Know About Reptiles
Reptiles live in places
almost everywhere on Earth. Most reptiles live where it never gets too cold,
because they cannot make body heat.
Alligators and crocodiles
spend most of their time in rivers, swamps, or lakes. They live in the
southeastern United States, Asia, Central America, and South America.
Lizards live mainly in
deserts and tropical rain forests. Some lizards live in trees. Other lizards
live in or near water. Worm lizards burrow into the ground. Tuataras live only
on islands off New Zealand.
Snakes live nearly everywhere
except Antarctica. They live in forests, grasslands, and deserts. Some snakes
even live in water. You might find a snake in your backyard.
Many turtles spend most
of their time in water. Some live in freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers. Sea
turtles live in the ocean. Turtles that live mainly on land are called


All alligators, crocodiles,
and snakes are meat eaters, or carnivores. So are many other reptiles. Snakes
eat birds, rodents, fish, frogs, eggs, and even other reptiles. Most lizards
eat insects.
Some turtles, tortoises,
and lizards are plant eaters, or herbivores. They eat leaves and fruits. Most
turtles and a few other reptiles eat both plants and animals. Turtles are the
only reptiles that do not have teeth.
Meat-eating reptiles catch
their prey in many different ways. Some turtles that live in water stick out
their long necks and suck the prey into their mouths. Pythons, boas, rat
snakes, and king snakes wrap their bodies around their prey and suffocate it.
Then they swallow the animal whole. Poisonous snakes bite with sharp fangs and
send venom, or poison, into their prey.
Chameleons have long,
sticky tongues that they use to zap insects. Large monitor lizards hunt prey,
but sometimes they eat animals that are already dead.
Male and female reptiles
mate. Male reptiles court, or try to attract, females. Some lizards change
color to find mates. A male turtle may stroke a female’s face with his front
Most female reptiles make
nests and lay eggs. A few lizards and snakes give birth to live young.
All baby reptiles can
live on their own as soon as they hatch. But most baby reptiles do not live
more than a few months. Birds, snakes, and mammals eat them. Sharks hunt baby
sea turtles.
Reptiles can live a long
time if they don’t get eaten. Some tortoises may live up to 150 years.
Alligators can live more than 70 years. Small lizards may live only 4 or 5
People all over the world
are destroying places where reptiles live. People dig up land for farms and
houses. They pollute rivers, lakes, and ponds where reptiles live.
People hunt reptiles and
gather reptile eggs for food. They trap turtles and other reptiles to sell as
pets. People hunt big lizards, snakes, and crocodiles for their beautiful skin.
The American alligator
was an endangered species in the late 1960s. Laws were passed to protect it
from being hunted. The American alligator is not endangered anymore. Many other
reptiles are still threatened. Many countries have passed laws to protect rare
reptile species.
Put yourself in the place
of a harmless snake. You’re just lying in the grass, minding your own business,
when suddenly a great big foot comes crashing down right next to your head. You
take off through the grass like greased lightning. In the distance someone
screams, “Snake!” Which one should be more afraid, the human or the snake?
A snake is simply a long,
thin animal. It does not have arms or legs. It crawls along the ground on its
Snakes are reptiles. Like
all reptiles, snakes are cold-blooded. They can’t control their own body
temperature, and so they have to lie in the sun to get warm and in the shade to
get cool.