October 21st is Reptile Awareness Day and to celebrate we have ten fascinating reptile facts, compiled for you by pet insurers ExoticDirect.
- There are four main reptile groups
These include; Crocodilians (alligators and crocodiles), the Squamates (lizards and snakes), the Tuatara (which look like lizards but differ in their bone structure), and the Turtles.
Turtles and Crocodilians have remained largely unchanged since they appeared around 200 million years ago, with squamates the most diverse group, containing around seven and a half thousand different species.
- Reptiles and birds are actually related….
Some reptiles, like crocodiles, are more closely related to birds than they are to other lizards. For this reason, some scientists have started to consider birds a part of the Reptilia class, one of the stages of the taxonomic rank that groups evolutionarily similar animals together.
This is because birds, lizards, snakes, turtles and crocodiles all descended from a common ancestor that lived around 300 million years ago. Reptiles evolved from amphibians, being some of the first animals to move to live on the land rather than in the water. Reptiles are sometimes considered the evolutionary step between these amphibians and animals, including dinosaurs, mammals, and birds.
- Reptiles’ skin came with this evolution
Reptiles’ scaly skin evolved as a layer of protection, meaning these animals could finally move away from bodies of water and live on the land without a risk of drying out. For the snake, which is entirely covered in scales, the skin gives protection, helps it move, and also functions as camouflage.
Reptiles either shed their skin in flakes, or all at once like snakes do. This shedding of the old, worn out skin means the reptile has a nice new set to live in. It also helps to remove parasites which may harm the reptile.
- Reptiles are cold blooded
This means that they rely on the world to keep them warm, rather than having internal ways to regulate their body temperature. Therefore, reptiles like crocodiles and snake relax in the sun during the way warming themselves up and energising. Then, in the evenings, they become sluggish, having no sun to keep them powered up.
This might sound like an inefficient way to live, but it actually means they’re able to eat significantly less than other animals like birds and mammals; it does, however, mean they’re unable to remain active at night.
- Reptiles’ hearts aren’t like ours
Most reptiles have three-chambered hearts, which differs from the human’s four chambers. This poses some health benefits: reptiles are usually better at enduring bigger changes in heart rate and blood pressure.
Crocodilians, however, do possess four-chambered hearts. Their anatomy is still pretty different from a human’s, though.
6. Some reptiles change sex based on temperature
Almost all reptiles lay eggs which have leathery-feeling shells. These eggs help to protect the reptile, as well as preventing it from drying out.
Some reptiles have temperature-dependent sex determination, meaning the sex of the reptile is determined by how hot or cold the egg is incubated. This is exhibited most commonly in turtles and crocs, but is also true of some lizards too.
- Unfortunately, reptiles can suffer from some pretty bad illnesses
Royal Pythons, for example, can suffer from anorexia. Some have been known to not eat for up to eleven weeks. This can be due to health care problems which cause the python to lose his or her appetite.
Bearded dragons can suffer from metabolic bone disease, which can be a pretty serious condition, and Tegus can suffer, embarrassingly, from constipation – not a very comfortable illness for a reptile (or a human, for that matter).
- Reptiles can be pretty dangerous, unless you’re in the UK
The last recorded death from an Adder bite in England was in 1975. Although there are roughly 3,400 snake species, with 600 of them venomous, the Adder is the only poisonous species in the UK.
The Alligator Snapping Turtle has a bite which has been known to take off fingers and limbs, with the quick moving Komodo dragon, the largest living lizard species, growing to about three metres long, reported to have attacked humans in both the wild and in captivity.
Saltwater crocs, the largest of the crocodiles, have an especially strong bite, exerting thousands of kilos of pressure per square inch when they bite down. According to some sources, crocodiles kill around 800 people per year!
- Dreaming of snakes…..
According to dream websites, dreaming of snakes means you’re working through resolving an issue you have in your life, and can also be a sign of transformation, something taken from the snake’s ability to shed its skin. Whatever the truth of these analyses, you certainly wouldn’t want a snake in your bed.
- A few world records
According to Our Planet, in 2017 the largest croc ever captured and put in captivity was – brace yourself – a whopping 6.17 meters long, and it was suspected he ate two human beings. And in 2017, the Guiness Book of World Records website put the largest crocodile that ever lived as a Sarcosuchus Imperator, who was a petrifying 12 metres long.
The longest snake, meanwhile, is 7.67 metres long (25.2ft). Medusa, a reticulated python, is housed in Kansas City. She’s eaten a whole deer in one sitting before and weighs a hefty 158.8kg (350 lb). This is according to the Guiness Book of World Records, 2011.
The oldest tortoise, Adwaita, was estimated to be at least 150 years old according to the BBC in 2006, and some estimates even put his age at a stately 250 years.
Finally, the largest reptile zoo in the world is in South Dakota, USA, and houses 225 different species and subspecies (as of 2013).