What do you think of when you hear the word “reptile”? Do you think of non-traditional pets like snakes, geckos, bearded dragons, and chameleons? Or do think of wild animals like crocodiles, alligators, or caimans? Reptiles are amazing creatures – they are an important part of our natural environment and certain types make great pets.
Whatever you think of reptiles, there’s always more we can learn. On October 21, join people around the world in Reptile Awareness Day – a day for reptile enthusiasts to share their passion and for others to learn about these fascinating creatures!
In honour of Reptile Awareness Day, here are some interesting reptile facts:
- Most reptiles lay eggs, but some give birth to live babies! Garter snakes, Jackson’s chameleon, some species of skink, and all boa constrictors give birth to live young.
- Reptiles have specialized skin cells and are covered in scales, bony plates, or both.
- The inner part of a turtle shell is bone, while the external “scutes”, or scales, are made of keratin. But there are also soft-shelled turtles, which lack external scales, so their shell is light and flexible, allowing them to move around more easily.
- Turtles are attached to their shell, which grows as the turtle grows; they never “shed” or leave their shell.
- Reptiles control their internal temperature by moving to the sun or shade as needed to warm up or cool off.
- Reptiles defend themselves by camouflage, hissing, or biting.
- More than 8,000 species of reptiles are known and live on every continent except Antarctica – it’s too cold there!
- Reptiles are among the longest-lived species. Some tortoises can live to be more than 150 years old!
- Most snakes are non-venomous, with only about 500 species being venomous, and of these, only about 40 are harmful to humans.
- Snakes and lizards flick their tongues to capture smells – this is partly how they search for food!
- Some species of geckos can detach their tails when attacked by a predator! In most cases a new tail will grow in place of the old one.
- Reptiles have been around for a very long time. They are the oldest type of animal on the planet.
If you own a reptile, you already know just how amazing these creatures are. If you don’t own one (yet!), but would consider adding one to your life, start a conversation with your family to see if everyone is on board with having a reptile in your home. Investigate which types of reptiles would be good for beginners and speak to your veterinarian for advice.
If you don’t think you’d like a reptile as a pet, you can still appreciate these interesting and amazing beings and the important role their play in our environment and our world’s biodiversity. You can advocate for their protection by donating to a conservation program and posting about Reptile Awareness Day on social media.