10 Extraordinary Reptiles
Our wonderful world hosts an astonishing array of life. Not to be outdone in this is the reptiles. These remarkable creatures come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They also live in virtually all parts of the globe. Some find them fascinating, while others fear them. Regardless of what one may think of them, however, they, like all forms of life on this planet, have their role to play in its myriad ecosystems. Often, the reptiles play key roles in their local environments. Here we list our choices for 10 Extraordinary Reptiles. We hope you enjoy them and invite you to let us know what you think.
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle Facts
- The distinctive, if somewhat lengthy, name Olive Ridley Sea Turtle serves as the common name for the rather amazing Lepidochelys olivacea.
- While this fascinating creature forms the smallest of all known types of sea turtle, it also represents the most highly abundant of them.
- Along with its relative, the Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle, this reptile remains best known for its trait of engaging in nesting in mass numbers on the same beach.
- Despite its great numbers, the IUCN currently lists this animal as Vulnerable. This listing occurs due to the growing concerns of such factors as climate change, given the fragile nature of its nesting locations.
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle Physical Description
The comparatively small Olive Ridley Sea Turtle attains an average length of about 2 ft (61 cm). The species also displays a slight degree of sexual dimorphism.
While the overall weight and length of both genders remain roughly equal, the female typically develops a slightly more rounded carapace than that of the male.
Mature individuals average about 101 lb (46 kg) in weight. Even exceptional individuals rarely exceed a weight of 110 lb (50 kg). Yet the tiny hatchlings average a mere 0.05 lb (20 grams).
In color, adults of this rather remarkable species most commonly display a combination of various shades of olive green.
Species: L. olivacea
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The tiny yet impressive Olive Ridley Sea Turtle possesses a rather wide area of distribution. It inhabits the temperate and tropical waters of both the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It appears to be especially common near Australia.
While it also inhabits areas of open ocean, the majority of individuals prefer to inhabit comparatively shallow regions within 9.3 mi (15 km) of land. Specific habitats, however, change during its life cycle.
Although the animal will occasionally feed on algae when other food remains scarce, the species evolved as predominantly carnivorous.
Its typical prey consists of various invertebrates, such as sea urchins, shrimp. crabs, and jellyfish. Surprisingly, cannibalistic behavior sometimes occurs when other food becomes scarce.
Other than some sharks and orcas, adults have relatively few natural predators.
Golden Armadillo Lizard
Golden Armadillo Lizard Facts
- The remarkable Golden Armadillo Lizard represents a species of lizard endemic to certain desert regions. It also remains a unique species of animal.
- Its rather fascinating defense mechanism constitutes rolling into a tight ball, which makes it appear larger to would-be predators.
- This action also presents would-be attackers with its thick, armored exterior. This defensive technique usually protects it from most predators.
- The IUCN also previously listed it as Vulnerable but recently downgraded that status to Least Concern. This occurred due to a virtual cessation in the pet trade.
Golden Armadillo Lizard Physical Description
The rather fascinating Golden Armadillo Lizard remains a moderately sized reptile. Yet that does not diminish its rather fascinating nature.
Its colors range from a light brown to a dark brown on top. Yet the underbelly of the Golden Armadillo Lizard appears yellow, with a black pattern.
Individuals range in size from 6.5-8.5 in (16-21 cm) in length, with no discernible sexual dimorphism. Its bite measures so powerful for a creature of its size that it can literally break its own jaws when it bites.
Species: O. cataphractus
Golden Armadillo Lizard Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The amazing Golden Armadillo Lizard also evolved as endemic to a highly specific portion of southern Africa. It only thrives in portions of the Northern and the Western Cape provinces of South Africa.
The lizard prefers scrub brush and rocky areas for its habitat. Despite the heat of this habitat, it remains a diurnal creature, being active during the day and sleeping at night.
The Armadillo Lizard also typically lives in social groups which can number as many as 60 individuals but is usually closer to 30 individuals.
Its diet consists primarily of small invertebrates such as insects and spiders. The rather remarkable animal also has an average lifespan of approximately 10 years.
Individuals typically make their home in cracks in boulders, or crevices.
- The Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), or the gavial or fish-eating crocodile, is a crocodilian of the family Gavialidae.
- Sadly, the global population of this rather impressive animal is perhaps only less than 235 individuals.
- Loss of riverine habitat, depletion of fish resources and also the use of fishing nets all threaten the crocodile.
- Further, the numbers of Gharial have declined so drastically in the past 70 years that now the creature lists on IUCN’s Critically Endangered list.
Gharial Physical Description
Typically, the adult Gharial has a dark olive color tone, while young ones are a rather pale olive with dark brown spots or cross-bands.
This amazing reptile also ranks as one of the longest of all living crocodiles. For example, adults may measure up to 20.5 ft (6.25 m) in length.
With 110 sharp interdigitated teeth in its long thin snout, the Gharial is well adapted to catching fish, its main diet.
Species: G. gangeticus
Gharial Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
Its territory also spanned the rivers of its northern part from the Indus River in Pakistan across the Gangetic floodplain to the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar. Unfortunately, the distribution of the Gharial is also now within only 2% of their former range. Today, it is extinct in the Indus River, in the Brahmaputra of Bhutan and Bangladesh, and in the Irrawaddy River.
In India, rather small populations are present and increasing. The Gharial is also limited to the rivers of the Katarniaghat Sanctuary, Son River Sanctuary and the rainforest biome of Mahanadi in Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary, Odisha. In Nepal, small populations are slowly recovering in tributaries of the Ganges. Those are places such as the Narayani-Rapti river system in Chitwan National Park and the Karnali-Babai river system in Bardia National Park.
In 1977, scientists found four nests in the Girwa River of Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary. Before 2006, they released 909 Gharials there.
Consequently, twenty nests existed in 2006, and 16 nesting females resulted from 30 years of re-introductions. Unfortunately, this number is an insufficient achievement.
Several researchers have also suggested that perhaps carrying capacity is at maximum.
In 1978, experts discovered twelve nests in the Chambal River in the National Chambal Sanctuary. By 2006, nesting had increased to 68 nests. Yet, the recruited mature reproducing females constituted only about 2% of the total number scientists released.
Last, the annual monsoon flooding is always likely to flush downstream out of protected areas the newly hatched Gharial young.
Marine Iguana Facts
- The Marine Iguana is a very special species. It is found only on the Galapagos Islands, which remains part of the country of Ecuador, in South America.
- To our knowledge, it remains the only lizard in the world able to live and forage in the ocean.
- This makes it the only known marine reptile on earth.
- Plus, look at this face. Does it remind you of Khaleesi’s dragons in Game of Thrones? It must be those dragons’ cousin.
- Adding to its dragon resemblance, the species primarily dwells on the rugged shore, but may sometimes visit marshes and mangrove beaches.
- Unlike other lizards – as well as the GOT dragons, the Marine Iguana is herbivorous and feeds exclusively almost on underwater seaweed.
Marine Iguana Physical Characteristics
In color, the Marine Iguana is generally various shades of gray or black, but may sometimes display other colors.
The unique animal resides on several of the islands and actually varies in average size from island to island – how unique. A general average size is approximately 5.6 ft (1.7 m) in length and 26 lbs (12 kg) in weight.
So it is too small to move around with Khaleesi on its back.
Though it does feed almost exclusively underwater, its flat snouts and sharp teeth allow it to also feed on algae growing on rocks when it so chooses. The Marine Iguana possesses a unique nasal gland, which filters its blood for excess levels of salt ingested while feeding. This excess salt is then expelled through the nostrils.
Species: V. komodoensis
Marine Iguana Aggressive Nature
The remarkable Marine Iguana can also dive to depths as great as 30 feet (10 m). After diving in the rather cold water to feed, it will bask in the sun on the rocky shoreline for long. At this time, it is extremely defensive and will strike at any approaching creature.
During breeding season the males assemble large herds of females, which the male will aggressively guard against rivals. Violent encounters at this point are rare, however. Typically, such fights consist of no more than head-bobbing and head-butting.
The Marine Iguana is a fully protected species by law.
Spider Tailed Viper
Spider Tailed Viper Facts
- Spider Tailed Viper serves as the common name for a truly astonishing species of reptile.
- This fascinating creature also possesses one of the most remarkable and resourceful evolutionary adaptations ever seen in the entire animal kingdom.
- That’s because the tail of this snake grows tipped with an appendage that bears a remarkable resemblance to a spider.
- The aptly named reptile also uses this appendage as a lure, to attract potential prey.
- The extremely cunning and resourceful species also moves this evolutionary advantage in a manner resembling the motions of an arachnid.
- While waiting for its prey, the snake also blends into the surrounding terrain. Its color patterns provide it with a perfect natural camouflage.
Spider Tailed Viper Physical Description
The physical size of the Spider Tailed Viper resembles other related species. Adults average between 16-28 in (40 – 70 cm) in length.
Sexual Dimorphism also appears to be present in this species, with females averaging slightly greater in length than the slightly smaller males.
The head grows rather broad and flat, with a short, rounded snout present.
Likewise, coloring varies between individuals, yet browns and greys predominate, to assist in blending in with the environment.
The most distinctive feature remains the spider-shaped growth on the end of its tail, used to attract its prey.
Species: P. urarachnoides
Spider Tailed Viper Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
Being endemic to the rather rugged and remote mountain regions of western Iran, in Asia, the Spider Tailed Viper is rarely seen.
Also, within its native habitat, the species primarily spends its time in rock crevices.
There, its natural camouflage permits this ambush predator to wait for its prey. This remarkable snake feeds on a variety of small mammals, most of whom are themselves predators of spiders.
The majority of its prey also consists of various types of birds.
Though the Spider Tailed Viper kills its prey with venom, the relative potency of its venom has never been studied.
Green Sea Turtle
Green Sea Turtle Facts
- You would think that the Green Sea Turtle has a green shell and body, right? But that’s not it. The real reason for its name is rather far more colorful.
- Under the carapace of this gorgeous ocean-dwelling creature is a layer of body fat that is actually green in color.
- The Green Sea Turtle also exists throughout the tropical and subtropical waters of the world. The species migrates enormous distances between where it lives and feed, and its breeding grounds.
- Females may swim thousands of miles, struggle onto beaches, and dig nests to lay their eggs. Talk about maternal instincts.
- Though it now constitutes a protected species, the species still remains endangered, primarily due to habitat loss.
Green Sea Turtle Physical Characteristics
The color patterns of the carapace of the Green Sea Turtle actually change over time. Newborns are primarily dark in color. As they age, these slowly turn to olive and then mottled green in color (much like the hair of humans turning gray).
The Green Sea Turtle averages approximately 5 ft (1.5 m) in length and weighs an average of approximately 420 lb (190 kg). Exceptional individuals have reached weights of nearly twice this, however. That is a big turtle.
Its body is generally flattened in shape, the snout is short, and the beak is unhooked. The limbs are understandably paddle-shaped, and quite powerful, making it a strong swimmer.
Species: C. mydas
Green Sea Turtle Habitat and Ecology
As juveniles, the Green Sea Turtle is primarily carnivorous. Yet, the adults are principally herbivorous, feeding on a variety of algae and kelp. Talk about mellowing with age.
The Green Sea Turtle actually inhabits different types of habitat during different stages of its life. For example, the young typically spend their first 5 years in pelagic waters, rarely being seen (their version of the awkward teenage years perhaps). Mature individuals prefer to inhabit lagoons, inshore bays, and shoals with seagrass meadows.
The only natural predators of adults are large sharks and humans (no surprise on that one). The young, however, are often easy prey for shorebirds, marine mammals, and even crabs.
Green Sea Turtle Threats and Conservation
Despite its protected status, the Green Sea Turtle remains under threat in some parts of the world. These threats include illegal hunting and egg harvesting.
Additionally, it also faces unintentional threats, which present an even greater danger to their continued existence. These include strikes by boats, trawler nets, and habitat loss.
In recent years, chemical pollution of the ocean has also led to a significant increase in the presence of tumors among individuals studied in random monitoring.
The IUCN lists the Green Sea Turtle as Endangered and continues to stress that, while efforts to protect the species are in effect, the need for more extensive efforts grows greater every year.
Thorny Dragon Facts
- The Thorny Dragon is a species of lizard endemic to Australia. This animal is so unique that it is the only species currently classified within its genus.
- This unique reptile was first described by the noted biologist John Edward Gray, in 1841. The Thorny Dragon also possesses a typical lifespan of approximately 20 years.
- This species also displays a degree of sexual dimorphism. In this reptile, the female is noticeably larger than the male.
- For reasons as yet undetermined, the Thorny Dragon also moves with a unique combination of slow, rocking motions, as it searches for mates, water, and food.
Thorny Dragon Physical Characteristics
The Thorny Dragon attains an average overall length of approximately 8 in (20 cm). Its coloring is a haphazard combination of reds, browns, and tan.
As a result, it has extremely effective camouflage within its natural habitat. The shades also change with the seasons, becoming lighter during the warmer months, and darker during the colder months.
The entire body of the creature remains covered with conical spines. It has also evolved a structure on the back of its neck, resembling a false head. This is made of soft tissue.
The Thorny Dragon utilizes this as a decoy when attacked by predators, by dipping its actual head.
Species: M. horridus
Thorny Dragon Habitat and Diet
The Thorny Dragon is endemic to the central and western sections of Australia. Within that range, it also typically inhabits either plain, desert, scrubland and the Roe Botanical District, in the central section.
In the western section, it generally inhabits areas of sandy loam.
It also feeds as voracious predators. The reptile will eat a variety of insects if the need arises but usually subsist entirely on ants. A single one of these lizards commonly consumes several thousand ants in a single day.
At night, the rigid structure and designs of its spine actually channel moisture condensation directly into its mouth.
- The Tuatara represents a reptile endemic to the country of New Zealand. Physiologically, the Tuatara remains the most primitive species of reptile known to man.
- Taxonomic studies also determined that it underwent numerous evolutionary adaptations over time. However, its physiology remains the closest to their Mesozoic Era ancestors of any known species.
- Currently, only two known species of Tuatara still exist. The second species was not identified until the year 1989.
- A third species, that existed previously, has now become extinct.
- Both extant species of this animal have now become functionally extinct on the New Zealand mainland.
- The only known population of this unique creature also resides within the confines of the protected and monitored Karori Sanctuary.
Tuatara Physical Characteristics and Distinctiveness
Both types of Tuatara display a degree of sexual dimorphism. The males typically grow about one-third larger than the females. Males average roughly 24 in (61 cm) long and 2.2 lb (1 kg) in weight. Females average nearly 18 in (45 cm) in length, and 1.1 lb (0.5 kg) in weight.
In color, the Tuatara generally appears a greenish brown. This will alter over time, however, to adapt to their specific surroundings.
The Tuatara possesses one unique physical characteristic because it actually possesses a third eye. This eye is known as the parietal eye and is on top of their heads.
It is only visible on the young, and after 4-6 months, it becomes covered in opaque, yet pigmented, scales. It retains its functionality, though its precise purpose remains unknown.
Tuatara Behavior and Status
The adult Tuatara remains a terrestrial animal. It also appears primarily nocturnal in nature, though it will frequently bask in the sun. Hatchlings typically seem diurnal and spend the majority of their time hiding under logs and rocks.
Researchers believe that this behavior remains principally due to the fact that the adult Tuatara often shows cannibalistic tendencies. Though not toxic, they also tend to be rather aggressive and possess a powerful bite for a creature of their size.
Aside from the Karori Preserve, it now appears to be extinct on the mainland. Its population now only inhabits 32 small islands which continue to be free of competing mammals.
However, it also still remains numerous on these islands. This is attributed to the fact that the islands are inhospitable and rarely visited by humans, aside from researchers.
Draco Volans Facts
- After seeing the Draco Volans, one might think that dragons are real. This particular dragon, however, doesn’t breathe fire just yet so it’s not quite as dramatic as the dragons in Game of Thrones.
- Just like the Marine Iguana, this little dragon must be a relative of Khaleesi’s children.
- Draco Volans constitutes a species of lizard native to portions of Southeast Asia. Though it remains incapable of true flight, it does have the ability to glide between the trees for distances of as much as 26 ft (8 m).
- It feeds as an insectivorous creature, mainly consuming termites and ants. Though long known to the local inhabitants of its native range, the Draco Volans was not classified scientifically until 1758.
Draco Volans Physical Description
Despite its fearsome appearance, the Draco Volans remains a diminutive lizard attaining an average length of about 12 in (30 cm).
In color, its body principally displays brown and grows elongated in form. Its head is comparatively blunt-shaped.
The underside of the wings (though not technically true wings), however, is a combination of blue and yellow. The wingspan is typically approximately 3/4 the length of the body.
When not in use, the flaps of skin it uses to glide are kept folded against the body.
A slight degree of sexual dimorphism is present, with females slightly larger in size than males.
Species: D. volans
Draco Volans Habitat and Behavior
The lizard inhabits rather remote regions of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Within that area, individuals live almost exclusively in regions of the tropical forest.
The Draco Volans is also highly territorial by nature. A male will typically claim 2-3 trees as his territory, with 1-3 females inhabiting each tree (his own little harem).
After mating, the female will descend to the floor of the forest, and lay 1-5 eggs. These she buries in the loose soil.
Though the eggs take 1-2 weeks to hatch, the female will only guard them for a few days at most. Even after hatching, the female attends to the young only occasionally (not the best of mothers).
10 Extraordinary Reptiles
These represent our choices for 10 Extraordinary Reptiles. But countless others remain. They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Reptiles live in virtually all climates. They have been around for hundreds of millions of years, constantly evolving. They also fill numerous niches within their respective environments. What are some of your favorites?