Reptiles Alive LLC
Introduction to Reptiles and Amphibians

What is a Reptile?

Reptiles are animals from the class Reptilia.
There are 4 orders of the class Reptilia:

  1. Chelonia – Turtles and Tortoises
  2. Crocodilia – Alligators, caimans, crocodiles, gavials
  3. Rhynchocephalia – tuatara
  4. Squamata – amphisbaenians, lizards, snakes

General Characteristics of Reptiles:

  • Reptiles have a backbone. They are vertebrate animals just like mammals and birds.
  • Reptiles are covered in dry scales made of keratin, the same protein that makes up mammal hair and bird feathers.
  • Reptiles breathe air with lungs, the same as mammals and birds.
  • Most reptiles lay eggs on land. Some reptiles give birth to live young.
  • Most reptiles do not protect their eggs or young. Crocodilians, some snakes, and a few lizard species do protect their eggs and to some extent their young.
  • Most reptiles are cold-blooded or ectothermic meaning, “outside temperature.” This means the animal’s internal temperature changes with the temperature of the environment. Mammals and birds are endothermic meaning their temperature is regulated from within their own body.

Chelonians – Turtles

There are over 300 different kinds of turtles. Sea turtles swim through the warm oceans of the world with giant flippers, tortoises lumber across the land with strong elephant like legs, and terrapins paddle with webbed feet in freshwater habitats.

A turtle’s ribs and backbone form its hard shell. Covered in skin and scales, a turtle’s shell is considered and endoskeleton, just like a human’s skeleton.

Sea turtles can hold their breath for over an hour by using the powers of their amazing heart. The heart blocks off blood to the lungs and allows the blood to travel to only parts of the body needing oxygen while under water!

The giant galapagos tortoise, aldabra tortoise, and african spurred tortoise can live to be over 170 years old!

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Crocodilia – Crocodiles and family

With toothy smiles and big strong tails, crocodilians number over 20 different species including crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and gharials. Gharials have very long, narrow snouts studded with sharp teeth.

Crocodiles and alligators are a bit more difficult to tell apart. Alligators typically have broader snouts and straight rows of ridges down their backs. Crocodiles have narrower snouts and irregular rows of ridges on their back. When a crocodile’s mouth is closed, its fourth tooth on the lower jaw fits into a notch on the outside of the upper jaw.

There are only two different kinds of alligators; the American alligator and the endangered Chinese alligator.

Crocodilians feed on insects, snails, shellfish, frogs, turtles, fish, mammals, and birds. Most crocodilian species are afraid of humans and will swim away when people are nearby. The large saltwater and Nile crocodiles are the exceptions – they have been known to attack humans.

Crocodilian eyes and nostrils are located on top of their head to allow them to see and breathe above the water’s surface. They are covered in bony armor to protect them from both their prey and predators. They are very well built to survive in their watery habitats.

We still have much to learn from crocodiles. We have found they are immune to some diseases, heal quickly, are intelligent, and are wonderful parents. Alligators even help other animals survive during droughts by digging water holes with their huge body. Sadly, many crocodilian species are endangered due to habitat loss and over-hunting for food and the skin trade.

It is interesting to note that crocodilians are more closely related to birds than lizards. The superficial resemblance of crocodilians to lizards is due to convergent evolution.

Sustained energy expenditure of a reptile and a mammal as a function of core body temperature. The mammal has a much higher output, but can only function over a very narrow range of body temperatures.

Rhynchocephalia – Tuatara

The tuatara is an unusual reptile unchanged since the days of the dinosaurs. Although they look much like lizards, tuataras have different skulls, teeth, and pelvic bones. Living only in New Zealand on a few protected islands, these reptiles prefer lower temperatures than other reptiles. Tuataras live for a long time, probably over 100 years!

Unfortunately, they are highly endangered due to habitat loss and introduced predators.

 

Squamates (Amphsbaenians, Lizards, & Snakes)

Scientists do not separate lizards and snakes or the strange amphisbaenians into groups, but classify them all in one order.

Amphisbaenians

Amphisbaenians look a little like big worms, but like all reptiles, they have an internal skeleton made of bone and they are covered in dry scales. They are long and usually legless (although some have two front legs and no rear legs.) They are primarily fossorial, meaning they spend most of their lives underground.

Lizards

Lizards are the most diverse group of reptiles. They come in a huge variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Some lizards, such as the Komodo monitor (dragon), can grow over 10 feet long. Others, like the Jaragua lizard, are able to curl up on a dime.

A typical lizard has external ears, four legs, claws, eyes with eyelids, and tails. Scientists have found that lizards can see color, and some can even see in the ultraviolet wavelengths. Excellent eyesight allows the creatures to snatch bugs out of the air and to see spectacular mating displays.

A lizard’s sense of smell and taste is very acute. Monitor lizards even have a forked tongue like a snake to enhance their ability to smell.

Lizards have found remarkable ways to survive. Many are covered in spines, some can stick to trees, most are able to lose their tails and grow them back, others change colors, a few glide out of trees, and one species can even run across water!

Compare and Contrast: Snakes vs. Lizards

  • All snakes are legless, but some lizards are legless too!
  • All snakes have no ears, but some lizards lack ears as well.
  • All snakes lack eyelids, but some lizards also lack eyelids.
  • Snakes have forked tongues, but so do many lizards.

Confused yet? Don’t worry, from now on we will discuss snakes and lizards as separate groups. Whew! (and you were worried)

 

Snakes

Snakes are one of the most misunderstood group of animals on our planet. Many people fear snakes because of the myths and falsehoods perpetuated by the media and our society. Learning about snakes is a great way to overcome fears about snakes.

Snakes are reptiles that have no legs, ears, or eyelids. Snakes are dry, not slimy, as their scales are made of keratin, the same protein human hair and fingernails are made of.

A snake’s forked tongue cannot sting or hurt you. A snake that is constantly flicking out it’s tongue is simply interested in its surroundings, kind of like the “sniffing’ of a dog. Chemicals in the snakes surroundings, or “scents patricles,” stick to the tongue as it waves it around. Then the scent laden tongue deposites these particles onto a tissue pad on the floor of the mouth and that tissue pad is then pressed to the roof of the mouth transferring particles to the vomeronasal organ (a small hole in the roof of the mouth) sending instant messages about what it detects to the brain.)

Remarkable heat sensing pits light up the night for some lucky snakes. Rattlesnakes, pit-vipers, copperheads, boas, and pythons are able to distinguish in vivid detail differences in temperature allowing them to navigate and catch prey in complete darkness.

All snakes are carnivores. To catch prey, a snake must either bite it with fangs and inject venom, or use its body to subdue the animal using strong muscles. Swallowing the food is a challenge for an animal with no arms or legs! Their jaws are not strong enough to chew their food. Tiny curved teeth hook on to the food item, and allow it to only go in one direction, down the throat!

A snake’s head may appear too small to swallow many food items. Snakes can open both their upper and lower jaws exceptionally wide. The lower jaw includes two jaw bones connected in the middle with a stretchy ligament, so the mouth can open wide sideways as well. One side of the jaw holds the prey while the other side of the jaw slides forward, walking the food further into their mouth.

The largest snakes in the world are the anaconda and reticulated python, both able to grow up to 30 feet long and weigh several hundred pounds.

Snakes benefit our us and our planet in many ways. Snake venoms are used to make medicine to treat cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. Snakes prey on rodents, insects and other agricultural pest species. Other species of animals, including eagles, rely on snakes as food sources. Snakes are natural and integral part of our world’s ecosystems. If you see a snake, just leave it alone.

 

What is an Amphibian?

Amphibians are animals from the class Amphibia.

There are 3 orders of the class Amphibia:

  1. Anura – frogs and toads
  2. Caudata – newts and salamanders
  3. Gymnophiona – caecilians

Characteristics:

  • Amphibians have a backbone and an internal skeleton made of bone. They are vertebrate animals like birds, mammals, and reptiles.
  • Amphibians are cold-blooded or ectothermic. They cannot internally regulate their own body temperature.
  • Most amphibians start life as an aquatic larvae (tadpole) breathing the water with gills and then go through metamorphosis to become adults with lungs which breathe air. Exceptions include the lungless salamanders, such as red-backed salamanders (Plethodon), that lay their eggs on land and even guard them!
  • Most amphibians do not have scales (the exceptions are some of the caecelians) and their skin is permeable (that means molecules and gases can pass through their skin).

Anura – Frogs & Toads

Frogs and toads have a similar body shape – squat with longer back legs and shorter front legs and, as adults, most species have no tail. Some frogs have moist, slimy skin, whereas other frogs (toads) have dry skin covered in warts. All frogs have skin that is poisonous to some degree, the dart frogs of South America being the most famous for this trait.
All frogs are carnivores and depending on their size, will eat nearly anything they can swallow. Prey items include: insects; fish; smaller frogs; small snakes, lizards, turtles, and baby alligators, small birds, and small mammals.
Frogs are found in a variety of habitats in freshwater, on land, and in treetops too. Scientists studying ecosystems use the presence or absence of frogs to determine the health of the area being studied. As Kermit the Frog once said, “Shopping centers are nice and all, but a good swamp is hard to find.”

Caudata – Newts & Salamanders

The definition of the word caudate is “having a tail.” Salamanders are a group of amphibians that have long tails, long bodies, and distinct heads. Most salamanders are very small, less than 5 inches when fully grown. A few salamanders can get big, including the American hellbender and the Asian giant salamanders which can grow to over 2 feet long.
Salamanders are generally found in the temperate zones in cool forests. Most salamanders are either aquatic or terrestrial, but a few are arboreal.
The Appalachian mountains in the eastern United States are home to more species of salamanders than any other region of the world. One species, the red-backed salamander, has such large population densities that in some areas, it is considered the most abundant vertebrate animal.

Gymnophiona – Caecilians

Caecilians have an appearance very similar to earthworms. They are legless and have rounded, blunt heads and tails. Their bodies even have a grooved, segmented appearance. Also like earthworms, caecilians are burrowers and use their tough, compact skull to tunnel through the earth.

Caecilians are carnivores and feed on worms, insects and other creatures smaller than themselves.

Caecilians are found in the tropics in South America, Africa, and Asia.

 

REPTILES vs AMPHIBIANS
WHAT DO REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS HAVE IN COMMON?

  1. Both classes are vertebrate animals that have internal skeletons made of bone.
  2. Both are ectothermic.
  3. Most species of both amphibians and reptiles do not protect their eggs or young.

HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT?

  1. The skin of amphibians is glandular, highly permeable to air and water, and is usually covered in slimy mucus. The skin of reptiles is covered in dry keratin scales and is not very permeable to air or water.
  2. Amphibian eggs do not have a shell and are usually laid in water. Reptiles either lay shelled-eggs on land or give birth to live young.
  3. Most amphibian young are born physiologically different from their adult form and must go through metamorphosis to develop into adults. Reptiles do not go through metamorphosis.

 

Reptiles Alive really knew how to communicate with the kids. The scouts really love her doing the alligator courting song.” – Bob Becklund, Cubmaster, Fairfax, VA

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We had a great experience with Reptiles Alive for my daughter’s 6th birthday party. Rachel arrived exactly on time, set up quickly, and immediately engaged the group of curious children. We had an impromptu dance party while waiting for last minute guests and Rachel was very accommodating. The children LOVED the show!! And my soon-to-be 11 year old wants them to come for his birthday! I highly recommend Reptiles Alive for your next event!read more

Kelly Maguire

Kelly Maguire

22:57 12 Mar 18

We just had Reptiles Alive come to our preschool and the kids loved it!! We had 4 shows over 2 days to accommodate all our children and everything went great! Caroline was very easy to work with and quick to respond to all my emails. She was our presenter too and was early each day and ready to go when the kids arrived. She really geared her show towards our audience (2-5yr olds) and had them laughing and answering her questions and touching the animals. It was perfect… we would definitely book them again!!read more

Lauren Dolinski

Lauren Dolinski

20:47 01 Mar 18

We booked Reptiles Alive for our son’s 7th birthday party. Miss Rachel put on an amazing show for the 20 kids we had over. The highlight was when my son and I had the chance to hold a long and surprisingly heavy boa constrictor named Sunflower. The show was both educational and fun for the kids, and it kept them captivated for a full hour – priceless!!read more

Rick Jandrain

Rick Jandrain

01:53 06 Feb 18

Rachel is an awesome instructor and very good with many kids. The reptiles were fascinating. This was a great birthday party for my daughter and her second grade class.read more

Robert McKeon

Robert McKeon

23:26 26 Feb 18

We invited Reptiles Alive for our birthday party. Ms. Rachel did a wonderful job to educate the kids about the fun facts of Reptiles and also kept them entertained and focused. It’s not a easy job facing a bunch of 7-year-old boys and 3-year-old preschoolers. We highly recommend Reptiles Alive show. It’s fun and full of knowledge!read more

Tianchan Niu

Tianchan Niu

22:09 17 Dec 17

We had Reptiles Alive join us for a country club event and they did an outstanding job! Ashley was amazing and so professional. She was very interactive with the children and played the role perfectly. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience!read more

Chelsea Barb

Chelsea Barb

20:20 28 Mar 18

We’ve been working with Reptiles Alive for the past 4 years now and they show up and show out every time. Everything from booking to the day of is efficient and friendly. At our past event, presenter Liz did 6 shows back to back for our campers, which is truly impressive and phenomenal. We will continue to work with Reptiles Alive for years to come and really appreciate the work and educating that they do!read more

Lydia Vanderbilt

Lydia Vanderbilt

21:09 05 Apr 18

Reptiles Alive gave an awesome show at our elementary school! The presenter was so much fun and really engaged the children. Very cool reptiles and a great interactive meet and greet at the end. The kids loved it!read more

Jonathan Grau

Jonathan Grau

14:52 07 Apr 18

I am in charge of grade level assemblies at our school and our 3rd grade has RA in for their Rain Forest show every year to reinforce the things they have learned about in class. This is my second year working with them and I have been absolutely thrilled with the interaction to book the event and with the presenters. They engage the kids and help make them a part of the show. I can’t say enough about this wonderful program and the amazing people that work there.read more

Kim Painter

Kim Painter

23:32 07 Apr 18

We love this show at our preschool!! The kids have so much fun and learn a lot! They are very organized and always start on time. We have always had a wonderful experience with Reptiles Alive and can’t wait to have them back again!read more

Melissa Jones

Melissa Jones

15:06 20 Apr 18

Reptiles Alive LLC visited our 1st grade friends and did the “Reptiles Alive!” show. They exceeded all of our expectations and were excellent at keeping the students engaged. The students have talked about it for days after, even repeating some of the facts they have heard! I would highly recommend Reptiles Alive!read more

Brittney Gjorgjievski

Brittney Gjorgjievski

16:12 14 May 18

Reptiles Alive was a MAJOR hit at the Mattie Miracle Walk & Family Festival. Rachel was incredibly professional, engaging, and clearly loves what she does. She made the show and meet & greet fun for both kids and adults. Can’t wait to have Reptiles Alive back next year to our event. We received a lot of positive feedback from our guests and we were thrilled to see how well attended the show was at our event. Thank you Reptiles Alive!!!read more

Peter Brown

Peter Brown

01:58 22 May 18

Caroline did an awesome job for our kindergarten Reptiles Alive performance. She held their attention and told fun stories. The reptiles are so cool! Every time she introduced a new reptile, the kids were amazed. I recommend the “meet and greet” time as well. My students will never forget touching a boa constrictor! Thanks Reptiles Alive!read more

Michelle Baldwin

Michelle Baldwin

03:00 09 Jun 18

Reptiles Alive! came to our elementary school for a 3rd grade assembly. Nothing ruffles this organization — they can handle kids of all ages, big groups or small, and bring a *ton* of animals. They are engaging, age-appropriate and bring their own mic system so hearing is not a problem. I highly recommend the meet and greet afterward.read more

Stacey Evers

Stacey Evers

19:25 22 Jun 18

The show was a success, we had around 20 kids between 5-12. Lizzard Liz was great, she was able to keep all of them really interested. The reptiles were amazing, she even brought a small alligator and a boa constrictor.read more

florencia behrensen

florencia behrensen

14:39 02 Jul 18

Caroline at Reptiles Alive! always gives us the best show! It is fun and informative with a variety of reptiles each time she comes. We LOVE Reptiles Alive at Happy Faces Daycare in Centreville, VA!read more

Jessica Roberts

Jessica Roberts

13:56 12 Jul 18

Amazing 5-year old birthday party- Everyone loved the party, especially the birthday boy, who got to be the star of the show (besides the critters). Liz was on time, prepared, AMAZING at answering kids’ and adults’ questions, incredible breadth of knowledge, so good with the kids and animals, made the party fun, arrived on time, totally professional and courteous and an amazing ambassador of animals and representative of Reptiles Alive. We got to meet a few great snakes, a small alligator, a boa constrictor(!), tree frog, bearded dragon, gecko, and turtle.read more

Stacey R

Stacey R

12:55 30 Jul 18

This organization is great! They have a wide varieties of different shows that appeal to all types of audiences. The educators are very gentle with the animals and engaging with the students. Our educator, Caroline, was awesome! She spoke to the children in different voices, was very interactive, creative, and fun. The kids laughed and loved it. I also really liked the additional education that they provided us, as they told us about the origin of the animals that they were showing. It was also really nice to hear that not only the animals have big, safe, appropriate homes, but also that a great deal of their animals are rescues. I would highly recommend this show and we will definitely be booking them again in the future!read more

Mandi Ellis

Mandi Ellis

13:05 08 Aug 18