Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 23 November 2001 Issue
Fun Facts About Reptiles
Reptiles have been on earth for about 200 million years. Physically reptiles are characterized by several features: they are vertebrates, breathe air with lungs, and have skin covered with scales or plates. All reptiles are ectothermic or cold-blooded, meaning they depend on their environment for body heat.
There are almost 6000 species of reptiles in five families. The largest group of reptiles is the LIZARDS with about 3000 species. Most lizards are 4-legged, but a few have only 2 legs and others are legless. Lizards live in diverse environments and are the most geographically widespread of the reptiles. In size, lizards can range from 2 inches to 10 feet in length. Only two species, Gila Monsters and Beaded Lizards, are venomous.
Many Central Americans love the taste of the common iguana so much that they call it "gallina del palo," or "chicken of the tree."
Many lizards can change colors in seconds to match their surroundings.
The scaly skin of a lizard is made of keatin, the same substance that forms human fingernails.
Lizards have crude third eyes on top of their heads that senses whether it's day or night.
Texas horned lizards can squirt blood from their eyes. Some can hit enemies up to 10 feet (3 m) away.
Basilisks have amazing running skills. When threatened, these lizards take off on their hind legs, eventually building up enough speed to run on water.
A flying dragon avoids danger by opening two large, winglike flaps of skin and gliding from tree to tree.
The lizard steers with its tail. Marine iguanas can dive as deep as 50 feet (15 m) underwater to feed on algae.
The Gecko lizard is the only reptile with a true voice.
Some lizards' tongues are longer than their entire bodies.
There are 2700 species and subspecies of SNAKES in the world. As a group, they lack legs, hearing, and movable eyelids. Having evolved from lizards, some snakes still possess skeletal remnants of legs. Snakes have a large number of vertebrae (180 to 435), most of which have ribs attached. There are 4 families of snakes: Boidae (boas and pythons), Colubridae (racers, garter snakes, rat snakes and many others), Elapidae (cobras, mambas, and their relatives), Viperidae (rattlesnakes and other vipers).
Snakes have no movable eyelids or external ears.
Snakes are the world's most effective natural control on rodent population.
Most snakes can swallow prey that is 3 times or more their own body diameter.
Less than one-third of the world's snake species are venomous and less than 10% are dangerously venomous. However, in Australia 65% of all snake species are venomous, in the United States only 10% of the snake species are venomous.
You can't tell the age of a rattlesnake by counting its rattles because it gets a new rattle each time it sheds its skin, which can occur 1 to 6 times per year.
The world's longest snake (by reliable documentation) is the reticulated python, with a maximum length of, perhaps, 30 feet.
Common Cobra venom is not on the list of top 10 venoms yet it is still 40 times more toxic than cyanide.
The venom of the Australian Brown Snake is so powerful only 1/14,000th of an ounce is enough to kill a human.
source: website for reptiles:
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