Reptiles: Lizards, Snakes, and Others

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Reptiles have been around for 300 million years, even during the dinosaur age. The most common reptiles include alligators, crocodiles, lizards, snakes, tortoises and turtles. Reptiles are air-breathing animals, although many live not only on land but in water. The most noticeable feature of reptiles are the scales that cover their body. The majority of reptiles lay eggs to give birth to their young.

Although reptiles breathe through lungs, some reptiles can also absorb oxygen in water through membranes in their mouth.



Reptiles are often called cold-blooded because they can't regulate their own body temperature. Their body temperature depends on the external temperature. They will lay in the sun to heat their body, or hide in the ground, under a rock or in water to cool their body.


Crocodiles and alligators are large reptiles that spend much of their time on land and in water. They can walk on land using their webbed feet. They can also use their long tail to swim in water. Crocodiles feed on large animals they catch on land or in water. They have powerful jaws and teeth to tear apart their prey.

Lizards and snakes are the largest group of reptiles. Lizards are four legged animals with a long tail. Many lizards can shed their tail to escape from predators. They can then grow a new tail.

Some lizards, such as the chameleon, can change colors to blend into their environment. This camouflage helps to protect them from predators.


Snakes don't have limbs. They move by slithering along the ground.

Some snakes are poisonous, or venomous, such as the rattle snake, cobra, and eastern green mamba. They have fangs which bite into their prey and inject poison into the victim.

Other snakes, such as the boa constrictor and the python kill their prey by crushing it.

Most snakes can dislocate their jaw, allowing them to swallow prey much larger than themselves.

Interested in learning more about reptiles. Check out our Reptile Video Collection. It includes video on animals such as the alligator, boa constrictor, crocodile, gecko, iguana, rattlesnake, tortoise, turtle, and viper.

Web Sites about Reptiles:

Boa Constrictor photos and QuickTime movie are at the Belize Zoo. The movie will require the free QuickTime plug-in which you can download.

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