October 27, 2021

Riveting Reptiles: Groups

Learn more about four main groups of reptiles

Reptiles around the world play important ecosystem roles–both as prey to large mammals and birds and as predators for small mammals, birds and insects. By keeping small mammal populations in check, they limit the spread of diseases that can harm people.

In Riveting Reptiles: Characteristics, we learned about key characteristics that make a reptile a reptile. Reptiles generally are divided into four groups: Squamates, turtles, crocodilians and Rhynchocephalians.

Squamates include lizards, snakes and worm lizards, also called Amphisbaenians.

Turtles have shells, a highly modified ribcage covered in scales called scutes.

Crocodilians including alligators, crocodiles and caimans date back to the Cretaceous and haven’t changed all that much in that time.

Rhynchocephalians are the rarest group and only have one living member, the Tuatara, which are native to New Zealand. Tuatara may look like lizards but don’t have external ear. They have a third eye under the skin on their heads, complete with a retina, lens and nerve endings. This eye can’t actually see but it is sensitive to light!

As much as we love reptiles, it’s important to be thoughtful before you get a reptile as a pet. Many reptiles live for over 20 years, some up to 90 years or more. Reptiles also need very specific care like any pet, so be sure you are ready to commit to it before you take one home.

A great way to enjoy reptiles is out in the natural world. Next time you are enjoying nature, keep an eye out for reptiles–remember to be respectful, safe and enjoy them from a distance. 

Want to see a few reptiles up close and personal? Plan a visit to Discovery Place Nature and meet our resident reptiles!