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 freezing?
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.
WHAT KINDS OF ANIMALS ARE REPTILES?
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 species.
HOW BIG ARE REPTILES?
There are big reptiles and small reptiles. A tiny lizard called the Monito gecko is about 1y 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).
WHERE DO REPTILES LIVE?
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 tortoises.
WHAT DO REPTILES EAT?
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.
HOW DO REPTILES REPRODUCE?
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 limbs.
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 years.
ARE ANY REPTILES ENDANGERED?
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.
Source: Microsoft ® Encarta