Meaning of Reptiles

What are Reptiles:

They are vertebrate animals of prehistoric origin that have inhabited the planet for 350 million years. They live on the land surface and in some aquatic ecosystems. They are the evolutionary descendants of dinosaurs.

Examples of reptiles are the common iguana, the chameleon, the alligator turtle, the cobra, the Komodo dragon, and the horned lizard.

Characteristics of reptiles

The most common physical characteristics of reptiles are the following:

  • Their skin is covered with scales.
  • They have two holes in the upper part of the head, above the eyes.
  • They are tetrapods: they have four limbs, and if they don't, they are evolutionary descendants of species that do.
  • They have a three-chambered heart and two aortic arteries.
  • They are oviparous: embryos develop inside eggs.
  • They metabolize food slowly.
  • They can modify your body temperature.

The tuatara (Sphenodon spp), from New Zealand, has all the typical characteristics of a reptile and is evolutionarily the most direct descendant of dinosaurs.

Reptile species

There are more than 7,500 species of reptiles registered globally, but this number can vary depending on two factors.

  • The discovery of new species.
  • The extinction of existing species.

70% of the known species is made up of lizards and snakes. However, there are other registered species.

Currently, with the development of the field of genetics, the official classification of reptiles is a matter of debate. The classification shown below is the last official classification on which there was consensus (excluding amphibians). It was established based on the findings of Edward Tyson and John Roy.

Reptile type ExampleNumber of speciesLizardsgreen IguanaMore than 4300Snakes


More than 2900


Tuatara of the island Hermanos






Orinoco Cayman


Reptile size

The size of reptiles is very diverse. The Madagascar dwarf chameleon is the smallest known reptile, measuring 30 millimeters on average. The Nile crocodile can be up to six meters long and the anaconda up to nine meters long.

The rattlesnakeCrotalus atrox) can be up to 2.5 meters long.

Reptile diet

Its solid diet is based on animal protein, wild fruits and vegetables, but varies depending on the species.

For example: the tortoise is vegetarian, it eats flower petals, fresh leaves, carrots and strawberries. In contrast, the rattlesnake is carnivorous, feeding on small rodents, such as wild mice or bird eggs.

The water content that reptiles consume represents up to 2.7% of their body weight.

Green iguanas (Iguana-Iguana) eat melon, parsley and zucchini among others.

Habitat of reptiles

They are distributed throughout the planet, except in Antarctica, and there is a greater abundance and variety of species in tropical and temperate zones. However, there are species, such as the dune lizard in Namibia, that have developed the ability to survive extreme climates.

99% of reptiles are adapted to terrestrial environments; however, it is normal to find them in humid habitats, in lakes and in swamps.

Only a few varieties have specialized to tolerate extreme environments such as brackish waters (in river deltas) or arid areas (deserts).

The giant terrapin tortoiseChelonoidis nigra) is only found in the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador).

Reproduction of reptiles

Reptile reproduction is sexual and embryos grow inside eggs (oviparous).

In general, birth occurs from eggs that have been released and incubated outside the mother. There are few species of reptiles that evolved in such a way that newborns are released from the egg while still inside the womb (ovoviviparous).

The nests of the Orinoco caiman (Crocodylus intermedius) are at least 30 cm deep and the male provides food while the female protects the nest.

You may also be interested in Vertebrate animals.

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