In the animal kingdom, reptiles have always been particularly interesting. Clever behavior, engaging adaptations and vibrant colors make this class of animals incredibly unique. Reptiles come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from one inch to 10 feet! Reptiles exist on all continents except Antarctica, including North America. North America is inhabited by a diverse group of reptiles, each with its own unique and intriguing characteristics. In this article, we’ll take a look at seven of the most interesting reptiles in North America!
# 7: American legless lizard
One of the most interesting reptiles in North America is the American legless lizard. The American legless lizard is found primarily in southern California and Mexico. Sandy areas along the coast are their preferred habitat. These lizards mainly feed on insect larvae, beetles and other small invertebrates. American legless lizards are inconspicuous and imprecise in the wild, but their conservation status remains less of a concern.
At first glance, legless lizards look like snakes, but there are some key differences. First, legless lizards have a short body and long tail, while snakes have a long body and short tail. Legless lizards, unlike snakes, also have eyelids and auricles. They also lack the wide scales on the belly and the forked tongue of the snake.
# 6: Neal’s Monitor
The adorable reptile of North America is the Nile Monitor! The Nile Monitor is a large lizard of the same genus as the Komodo dragons, the largest lizards in the world! Neal monitors are typically 3 to 7 feet long and can weigh up to 44 pounds. The Nile Monitor is the largest lizard species in North America! This reptile has the least conservation status.
Nile monitors are invasive, which means they have been introduced to a new environment and have had a serious negative impact on the ecosystem they entered. They come from Africa and now inhabit Florida, where they have made a huge impact on native species since 1990. Nile Watchers devastated crocodile and alligator populations by hunting smaller species, destroying nests and stealing eggs. They also hunt other reptiles, birds and bird eggs, and small mammals. There are many reports of the disappearance of domestic and feral cats at Cape Coral, presumably related to an increase in the number of lizards.
# 5: snapping alligator turtle
The alligator snapping turtle is another interesting reptile native to North America. The snapping turtles live in freshwater bodies in the southeastern United States. This is the largest freshwater turtle in North America! There is an unverified account of a 403-pound alligator fishing for a turtle in Kansas in 1937. Although their typical weight is between 19 and 176 pounds. The alligator snapping turtle is currently listed as a vulnerable species.
This massive snapping turtle has a wide diet. It collects carrion (decaying animal flesh) and preys mainly on other turtles, fish, amphibians and molluscs. Snapping alligators turtles are adapted feeders, which means they will collect trash and hunt a wide variety of organisms, depending on what is available. In addition to their typical prey of small turtles and fish, snapping alligator turtles also occasionally prey on aquatic rodents, small mammals, small reptiles including small alligators, and invertebrates.
Alligator turtles have a unique hunting strategy. These turtles are primarily nocturnal. At night, they find themselves at the bottom of muddy water. They sit motionless with their mouths open, baring their worm-like tongue. The clicking turtle moves its tongue, imitating a worm, and lures prey into its mouth. When the victim is within reach, the turtle’s mouth slams shut with great speed and force.
# 4: Burmese python
Another interesting reptile of North America is the Burmese python. This massive snake is one of the largest in the world! They are usually 16 feet long and weigh between 40 and 200 pounds. The longest Burmese python ever recorded was a captive-bred female, reaching 18 feet 10 inches in length! The heaviest ever recorded weighed 403 pounds!
As the name suggests, the Burmese python is not native to North America. This snake is native to Southeast Asia until it hit the wild in America in 1992. The hurricane destroyed a python breeding facility, leading to the occupation and distribution of Burmese pythons in Florida. Like the Nile monitor lizard, Burmese pythons are invasive species.
As Burmese pythons continue to grow in Florida, several other native species are suffering the consequences. These pythons feed on foxes, rabbits, possums and white-tailed deer. Not only does this predation negatively impact prey populations, Burmese pythons also compete with other predators. American alligators rely on the many food sources that the Burmese python deplete and now have to fight for access. The introduction of alien species into a new environment creates the risk of uncontrolled growth of new species and imbalance in the ecosystem.
# 3: American crocodile
The American crocodile is also one of the most interesting reptiles in North America! The American crocodile is one of the largest reptiles in North America, weighing between 880 and 2000 pounds! This crocodile lives in southern Florida and Cuba. Populations also exist in parts of central and southern America.
Interestingly, American crocodiles are capable of producing many offspring. The female is fertile for 20 years after reaching puberty and lays 10 to 80 eggs at a time! In this case, the sex determination of the offspring depends on the temperature of the nest in which the eggs are kept. The American crocodile often lives to be 70 years old.
In general, crocodiles are considered more dangerous to humans than alligators. However, among crocodiles, the American crocodile is not particularly aggressive. Although females have increased ferocity when they guard the eggs. The American crocodile is responsible for 36 attacks on humans between 1995 and 2017. The saltwater crocodile and the Nile crocodile are considered the most aggressive species, but do not exist in the wild in North America.
The conservation status of the IUCN American crocodile was vulnerable at the last assessment in 1996. The United States Fisheries and Wildlife Service currently classifies the American crocodile as an endangered species, but it remains protected from poaching and killing under the Endangered Species Act.
# 2: yellow bellied sea snake
The second most interesting reptile in North America is the yellow-bellied sea snake! As the name suggests, the yellow-bellied sea snake has a characteristic yellow underbelly, which contrasts particularly strongly with the brownish-black back. Males are usually 28 inches long, while females can grow up to 35 inches. Yellow-bellied sea snakes are the most common snakes in the world and can be found in all open oceans. However, the Atlantic Ocean is not its natural habitat.
The yellow-bellied sea snake can have interesting behaviors. Although these snakes live in salt water, they need fresh water to stay hydrated. They get it by drinking the sediment that forms in a layer on the ocean’s surface. While hunting, yellow-bellied sea snakes wait near the surface and attack their prey, swimming backward and lunging. Swimming backwards is a unique behavior that distinguishes the yellow-bellied sea snake from other sea snakes.
The yellow-bellied sea snake has a potent venom. Their venom contains several neurotoxins and two additional isotoxins. Poisoning results in skeletal muscle damage, kidney damage, and neuromuscular paralysis. There are antidotes for treating bites, and as a result, bites cause very few deaths. The conservation status of the yellow-bellied sea snake is of least concern.
# 1: the Mojave rattlesnake
The Mojave rattlesnake is the most interesting reptile in North America! This snake is a species of pit viper that is primarily found in the southwestern United States and central Mexico. Their range includes southern California, southern Nevada, most of Arizona, southern New Mexico, and eastern Texas. Mojave rattlesnakes are brown to pale green in color and average 3 feet 4 inches in length. Their conservation status is of least concern.
The Mojave rattlesnake is one of the deadliest animals in North America. Of all snake species, it has one of the strongest and most toxic venoms, based on the average lethal dose. The venom of the Mojave rattlesnake is both neurotoxic and hemotoxic, which means it attacks the nervous system and red blood cells. This poison is especially harmful because it contains the Mojave toxin. Mojave toxin is a neurotoxin composed of two peptide subunits. One of the subunits is moderately toxic and is present in many other rattlesnake venoms. The second subunit of the Mojave toxin is incredibly lethal when combined with the first subunit and is unique to the Mojave rattlesnake.
After poisoning, it is imperative to seek immediate medical attention. A delayed reaction to the venom can occur, which can lead to an underestimation of the severity of the bite. Symptoms of severe poisoning include vision changes, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness, respiratory distress, and respiratory distress. Despite the deadly potential of the Mojave rattlesnake and its powerful venom, they are responsible for several deaths due to widely available antidotes.
List of the most interesting reptiles of North America
- Legless lizard
- Neal’s Monitor
- Alligator snapping turtle
- Burmese python
- American crocodile
- Yellow bellied sea snake
- Mojave rattlesnake