Types of Reptiles

What are reptiles?

Reptiles, like Amphibians, are vertebrates and ectotherms (cold-blooded) meaning they don’t use energy to maintain the higher metabolic rates of birds and mammals.  Instead, they convert much of their energy into growth and reproduction, and since they are more energetically efficient, reptiles are more numerous than other vertebrates within most ecosystems. Some reptiles are predators while others are prey.

There are four groups or types of reptiles:

  1. The turtles
  2. The squamata (lizards and snakes)
  3. The crocodilians (crocodiles and alligators)
  4. The tuatara (lizard-like)

Reptiles have 3 basic body types:

  1. Long bodies with clearly defined tails such as crocodiles (strong limbs) and lizards (weak limbs)
  2. Long bodies that taper into tails (snakes) with scales and muscles for movement
  3. Short thick bodies encased in shells (turtles and tortoises) with limbs to crawl and swim

Reptilian bodies are covered with scales or plates (known as scutes).  These structures molt or shed their skin as the reptile grows.  Reptiles need sunlight (or simulated light) for warmth since they cannot generate their own body head and require UV rays for both Calcium & Vitamin D synthesis.  Reptiles have a 3-chambered heart (unlike mammals like dogs and cats) and have only one ventricle. When the heart contracts, a septum separates it so that it functions similarly to our two ventricles.

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