Reptiles are cold-blooded vertebral animals that typically lay thick eggs and breathe air. There are many different species of reptiles, including turtles, snakes, and lizards. These fascinating creatures live all over the world, and may be found in nearly every type of environment.
Snakes are reptilian creatures known for long slithery bodies and occasionally deadly poisons. With nearly 3000 species, snakes have made their mark around the world, living on every continent except Antarctica. These reptile species vary widely in appearance and abilities, from the harmless inches-long Barbados thread snake to the massive 8-14 foot (2.4-4.6 m) Black Mamba, one of the deadliest venomous snakes in the world. While snakes are carnivorous, many are terribly maligned and killed out of hand on the mistaken assumption that all snakes are dangerous. As a result, many of these delicate reptile species are considered vulnerable to extinction or endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
Crocodiles and alligators are reptile species that inspire nearly as much fear as snakes. These powerful aquatic reptile species may look similar at first glance, but are actually different branches of the crocodilian family. While the alligator has a broad snout and large upper jaw, the crocodile has a long, narrow snout that allow both upper and lower teeth to interlock when jaws are closed. There are 23 reptile species of crocodilians, and most are likely to be found in swamps and slow moving rivers.
Older than snakes are the turtles, a fascinating group of reptile species. Turtles have existed for at least 200 million years, and have adapted to both land and aquatic environments. Turtles lay eggs like most reptiles, doing so on sandy beaches even if most of their lives are spent in water. Some turtle species make incredible journeys to reach egg-laying sites, scientists have recorded trips on tagged turtles of up to 800 (1287.4 km) miles. Additionally, some turtle species are extremely long lived; the Galapagos land tortoise has been known to reach over 150 years of age.
Lizards are another widespread reptile species; there are believed to be nearly 4000 different types of lizard in the world. The largest type of lizard is the formidable Komodo dragon, a species that acts as the apex predator in a small group of Indonesian islands. Although mostly carrion feeders, dragons will attack live pray and have even killed humans. Komodo dragons and some other species are known for their ability to sometimes reproduce asexually through a process known as parthenogenesis.