Reptiles are animals with a backbone, scales on their skin, and claws on their feet. Among the reptile types, crocodilians
are large and have bony plates beneath the skin; lizards
are elongated and, with some exceptions, have four legs; snakes
are elongated and lack legs; and turtles
lay eggs and have a shell. Reptiles live in all continents of the world but Antartica. In the United States, reptiles can be found in deserts, oceans, forests, and elsewhere.
Finding some reptiles can take training and experience. Many reptiles, such as the tiny Florida reef gecko, are active only at night and scurry between holes and ground cover. Large reptiles like the American alligator often are secretive too, keeping themselves unseen to hide from predators or to capture prey. Sometimes large gatherings of reptiles occur: Olive ridley and Kemp's ridley sea turtles are known for mass nesting on beaches, and in cold regions of North America, as many as one hundred prairie rattlesnakes may hibernate together in caves or burrows.
Reptiles can be unusual and fascinating creatures. Learn about the lifestyle and traits of a select few of the world's 8,000+ reptile species below.
Photo Credits: Please credit David Burdick (NOAA Photo Library) for green sea turtle; John J. Mosesso (NBII Digital Image Library) for American alligator; Kevin Jackson (National Park Service) for prairie rattlesnake; and Charles H. Warren (NBII Digital Image Library) for snapping turtle.
|Lizards, snakes, and amphisbaenians shed their skin in large patches or all at once.|
|All six species of sea turtles that occur in the United States are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.|
|Green anacondas (Eunectes murinus) are the most massive snakes in the world for their bulk and length combined.|
|All snakes are carnivores and swallow their prey whole.|
|All crocodilians have a third, inner eyelid called a nictitating membrane that protects each eye underwater.|