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10 Animals You've Never Heard of: Reptiles

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Becky works as a biological science technician in endangered species conservation and has a passion for biology and wildlife conservation.

The smallest living reptile is the dwarf gecko. Adults are only 16mm long.

The smallest living reptile is the dwarf gecko. Adults are only 16mm long.

All reptiles belong to the scientific class known as Reptilia, which includes turtles, tortoises, snakes, lizards, geckos, crocodilians, and tuatara. In order to be considered a reptile, an animal must have a body covered in scales made of keratin, fertilize internally but produce eggs, be cold-blooded, use thoracic breathing, and eliminate waste via uric acid.

Did you know? Almost all reptiles have three-chambered hearts. The only exception is crocodilians, which, like us, have hearts with four chambers.

Quick Facts: The largest living reptile is the saltwater crocodile, which has been known to grow to an average length of 14 feet and can weigh up to 4,400 pounds (though average weight is closer to 990 pounds). The smallest living reptile is the dwarf gecko, a tiny lizard that grows to only 16mm (0.63 inches) long.

Black Blind Snake, Leptotyphlops goudotii

Black Blind Snake, Leptotyphlops goudotii

1. Black Blind Snake

  • Species Name: Leptotyphlops goudotii (has been reclassified multiple times and has also been listed in the following genuses: Stenostoma, Glauconia, Epictia)
  • Conservation Status: Not Yet Assessed
  • Range: Central America and South America

This teeny, tiny animal is a type of blind snake, which is a group of snakes who burrow and live underground. A special, protective scale on its head allows it to push through soil without getting scratched or injured.

Also known as a slender blind snake or threadsnake, this species has a thin earthworm-like body. It eats the larvae of ants and termites, and the snake even releases a special pheromone that keeps it from getting attacked by termites.

More info: Black Blind Snake

Spiny turtle, Heosemys spinosa

Spiny turtle, Heosemys spinosa

2. Spiny Turtle

  • Species Name: Heosemys spinosa
  • Conservation Status: Endangered
  • Range: Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia

The spiny turtle, also called the cog-wheel turtle or spiny hill terrapin, gets its name from its spiky-edged shell. It lives in clear, rainforest streams but routinely emerges from the water to search for food. Its brown-colored shell provides camouflage while it crawls through the leaf litter of the forest floor, searching for edible fruits and other plant matter.

The spiny turtle is listed as endangered due to the pet trade and because it is a popular food source in many countries. Additionally, the remaining wild populations are scattered and isolated from each other.

More info: Conservation Report, Chelonia

drawing of the shell of spiny turtle

drawing of the shell of spiny turtle

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Gray's monitor, Varanus olivaceus

Gray's monitor, Varanus olivaceus

3. Gray's Monitor

  • Species Name: Varanus olivaceus
  • Conservation Status: Vulnerable
  • Range: Philippines

The Gray's monitor, also called the ornate monitor or butaan, is a rare lizard that lives in tropical forests, often near cliffs or rocky areas. As an adult, it eats mainly fruit, but as a baby, it also eats crabs and snails. It's also arboreal and lives up in trees.

Once thought extinct (they were rediscovered in the 1980s), the species is now considered vulnerable because it is hunted for food by local people, captured for the pet trade, and is losing habitat to agriculture. In the wild, it only inhabits an area of about 1243 square miles (or 2000 square kilometers).

Cool fact: This animal grows to be five feet long and can weigh 20 pounds!

More info: Conservation Report, LA Zoo

Motagua spiny-tailed iguana, Ctenosaura palearis

Motagua spiny-tailed iguana, Ctenosaura palearis

4. Guatemalan Spiny-tailed Iguana

  • Species Name: Ctenosaura palearis
  • Conservation Status: Endangered
  • Range: Motagua Valley, Guatemala

This beautiful iguana species currently only inhabits approximately 370 square miles (598 square kilometers) in the wild, and is considered endangered because it is hunted excessively, is losing habitat to agriculture, and its main food source is being wiped out.

This iguana's habitat is dry forest or scrub, and it makes shelter in hollowed cacti and trees. It primarily eats the fruit from a specific species of cactus, and the iguana spreads this cacti's seeds in its poop. Its eggs are eaten by another very endangered animal, the beaded lizard. This means conservation of the Guatemalan spiny-tailed iguana would affect and potentially save other species (like the cactus and beaded lizard).

Cool fact: This iguana blocks and protects the entrance of its home with its spiny tail.

More info: Conservation Report

Northern river terrapin, Batagur baska

Northern river terrapin, Batagur baska

5. Northern River Terrapin

  • Species Name: Batagur baska
  • Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
  • Range: Southeast Asia

This freshwater turtle grows to be 23 inches (60cm) long and can weigh up to 40 pounds (18kg). It lives in estuaries, rivers, and mangrove forests but it builds its nests on land. This turtle's diet consists of aquatic plants and invertebrates such as clams. It will travel up to 60 miles to reach its preferred breeding grounds.

This reptile is critically endangered because it is very popular as food in some countries. Both the adult turtles and eggs are harvested. Sadly, the northern river terrapin is already extinct in several locations of its natural range.

Cool fact: During breeding season, the male changes color! His shell and head turn black and his skin will turn pink.

More info: Conservation Report, Turtle Survival Alliance

Northern river terrapin breeding season colors, Batagur baska

Northern river terrapin breeding season colors, Batagur baska

Crowned Forest Dragon, Hypsilurus dilophus

Crowned Forest Dragon, Hypsilurus dilophus

6. Crowned Forest Dragon

  • Species Name: Hypsilurus dilophus
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
  • Range: New Guinea and Indonesia

This lizard inhabits rainforest habitat and lives up in trees. It consumes insects and fruits.

Also known as tree dragons, this reptile is able to adapt to altered habitats and is therefore not currently considered threatened by the agriculture and logging taking place in its range. it has even been observed living in gardens as long as trees are present.

More info: Conservation Report


7. Proboscis Anole

  • Species Name: Anolis proboscis
  • Conservation Status: Endangered
  • Range: Ecuador

Also known as the Ecuadorian horned anole and Pinocchio lizard, this reptile was first discovered in 1953 and wasn't seen again for 54 years. During that time, it was thought to be extinct. Today, the species can only be found in a 125-square-mile area of forest habitat along a highway.

The proboscis anole lives in tree tops and hunts insects. Like other anoles, it may nibble on fruits occasionally. Males have a long proboscis on their snouts, which is used during courtship displays.

More info: Conservation Report, See better anole photos

Pink-tailed worm-lizard, Aprasia parapulchella

Pink-tailed worm-lizard, Aprasia parapulchella

8. Pink-tailed Worm-lizard

  • Species Name: Aprasia parapulchella
  • Conservation Status: Not Yet Assessed
  • Range: Australia

Is it a snake? Is it an earthworm? Nope, it's a legless lizard! The pink-tailed worm-lizard grows to be about six inches (14cm) long and lives underneath rocks. It hunts invertebrates that also live under rocks, especially ant eggs. It may be legless, but this lizard still has little flaps where its hind legs would be.

This reptile lays only two eggs at a time, but it nests communally (with others of its species), so a single nest can have up to 30 eggs in it. The pink-tailed worm-lizard can also emit a high-pitched squeak.

More info: Australian Zoologist

Saharan horned viper, Cerastes cerastes

Saharan horned viper, Cerastes cerastes

9. Saharan Horned Viper

  • Species Name: Cerastes cerastes
  • Conservation Status: Not Yet Assessed
  • Range: Northern Africa and the Middle East

The Saharan horned viper is also known by nine other common names, including African desert horned viper, desert sidewinding horned viper, and horned desert viper. It is named for the little horns found just above each eye, but sometimes these "horns" are reduced, and not all individuals have them.

This snake lives in sandy habitats that contain rocky outcroppings and it seems to prefer a cooler climate where average temperatures don't go higher than 70°F. Because sand is difficult to move across, this snake uses a motion called sidewinding to travel efficiently.

Cool fact: When threatened, this venomous species makes a defensive posture and rubs its coils together, creating a rasping noise.

More info: Desert USA, Toxinology

Flowerback Box Turtle, Cuora galbinifrons

Flowerback Box Turtle, Cuora galbinifrons

10. Flowerback Box Turtle

  • Species Name: Cuora galbinifrons
  • Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
  • Range: China and Vietnam

This beautiful box turtle is critically endangered due to the pet trade and being a popular food source in some countries. According to recent studies, its population has collapsed by 90% in the past 60 years.

This reptile is also called the Indochinese box turtle and Vietnamese box turtle. It lives on terrestrial habitat in cool, humid forests, but is occasionally seen wallowing in shallow water. It is an omnivore and consumes fruit, earthworms, and carrion.

There are many conservation efforts underway for this species, including habitat protection, breeding efforts, and strict laws, but the wild population is still in a state of decline.

More info: Conservation Report, Asian Turtle Program


I appreciate you taking the time to read my article, and I would absolutely love to hear from you! Do you have any fun stories to share about your pets or encounters with wildlife? Are there any articles you'd like to see in the future? Please leave a comment. And if you have a moment, browse through my other articles.

Also Read: 10 Animals You've Never Heard of: Birds


James on August 10, 2020:

Oh wow I never knew about those animals

Chickennugget on October 28, 2017:

I never heard of any of these animals, they are truly amazing! Great article!

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