8 Creepy, Crawly, Endangered Reptiles With Weird Genetic Traits

A komodo dragon open its mouth wide.

 Giorgio Cosulich / Getty Images

Do snakes, lizards, skinks, and reptiles freak you out at all? They might be odd creatures, granted, but we believe that's exactly what makes them so fascinating. With so many species at risk of extinction, the more you read up on these creatures, the more you might be inspired to take action to aid conservation efforts.

From tiny turtles to massive dragons, these endangered reptiles have one-of-a-kind personalities, camouflage techniques, and body shapes that make them different from your average creepy-crawly.

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Leaf Nosed Lizard

A leaf nosed lizard sits perched on a branch.

Rangana Abeyrathne / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The leaf nosed lizard, found in the Knuckles Mountain Range in Sri Lanka, is a pro when it comes to blending in with its surroundings. In addition to the leafy-looking protrusion on the front of its face, the lizard can change its color to match its surroundings. Still, this ability to blend in hasn't helped it escape from human-made threats like deforestation, logging, and fires. Unfortunately, this has caused it to land on the IUCN's Endangered list.

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Round Island Boa

A round island boa slithers through a man's hands.

Simon J. Tonge / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

The Round Island boa gets its name from the one place in the world where it's still found in nature: Round Island, off the coast of Mauritius. Luckily, the snake's only captive population is finally taking off at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey, a British Crown Dependency; after nearly 20 years of trying to keep the notoriously picky eaters happy on a diet of geckos and lizards, the Trust managed to double the population between 2003 and 2008. It's quite a unique snake; it's one of the few that's able to change its color. In the boa's case, this means going from a dark gray in the morning to a pale gray at night. To add to its laurels, according to the Durrell Trust, the Round Island boa is "unique among all vertebrates" because of a split-top jaw that helps it grab its prey more easily.

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Komodo Dragon

A Komodo dragon sticks its tongue out on a bed of fallen leaves.

Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

As the world's current largest lizard, the Komodo dragon lives up to its name: The National Zoo reports that the biggest verified dragon stretched more than ten feet long and weighed 366 pounds. These magnificent giants hunt just about any kind of meat – from deer, rodents, and water buffalo, to even their own young. Komodo dragons release a toxic venom that incapacitates their prey. After that, they go as far as eating hooves, hides, and even bones. Only about 5,700 are believed to remain in the wild, and all of those are in Komodo National Park, located in Indonesia. For some reason, these reptiles have been getting more aggressive toward locals – though no one's really sure why.

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Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle

A Kemp's ridley turtle on a sandy beach.

Terry Ross / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Kemp's ridley sea turtle sets itself apart from other turtle populations in several ways. First of all, they're the smallest of all the Gulf of Mexico turtle species, measuring only about two feet long when fully grown. Secondly, they're the world's most endangered sea turtle, having dropped from a population of 40,000 females in the 1940s to less than 300 females by the mid 1980s. Lastly, they're well known for their synchronized daytime nesting activities, called arribadas, in which hundreds or thousands of females come ashore on the same day to lay their eggs. Through efforts to protect their nesting beaches from poachers, conservationists have increased the species' population to upwards of 5,500 females. Even with that good news, the turtles still face ongoing threats from dangerous run-ins with fishing nets and equipment.

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Leatherback

A leatherback sea turtle glides through water above the camera.

Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

As the largest sea turtle species in the world, with males growing up to over eight feet, it's no surprise that leatherbacks made this list. Apart from their gargantuan scale, these large turtles are also one of the most migratory turtle species, crossing not one, but two oceans (the Atlantic and the Pacific). If you didn't guess, their softer, more leathery skin compared to other hard-shelled turtles inspired their tough-sounding name. Leatherback populations worldwide have been seriously declining in the last 50 years, due to their valued eggs getting snatched and from being caught in fishing nets. Though listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, many regional leatherback subpopulations, like those in the southwest Indian ocean, are listed as critically endangered.

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Chinese Crocodile Lizard

A Chinese crocodile lizard sits on a log.

BFS Man / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

With a remaining population of only around 1,000 left in the wild, the Chinese crocodile lizard is a rare beauty in dire need of help. Named after its muscular tail that makes it resemble a mini crocodile due to two rows of scales along the top, this lizard is native to southern China and northern Vietnam. Listed by the IUCN Red List as endangered, the extinction of this species would be about so much more than just these interesting reptiles. That's because the Chinese crocodile lizard is the sole surviving species in its family and genus, called Shinisauridaei. This branch of the animal kingdom stretches back over 100 million years, before the extinction of dinosaurs, so it's imperative that this species continues on well into the future.

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Gharial

A gharial opens its jaws after breaking the surface of the water.

Tim Graham / Getty Images

With long, almost paper-thin looking jaws, the gharial is a beloved oddity in the crocodile family. Adding to their intrigue, male gharials develop a large growth at the end of their super-sized snouts. Named after a traditional Indian pot, they used to be found across the subcontinent in abundance. But since the 1940s, the gharial population has declined by up to 98 percent to a critically endangered level, according to the IUCN Red List. This has occurred due to the damming of their river habitats, a dwindling supply of prey due to overfishing, and their being caught up in fishing nets.

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Union Island Gecko

A Union Island gecko looks ahead.

reptiles4all / Shutterstock

 

You can find every single Union Island gecko on its tiny Caribbean namesake, which has an area of just 0.193 square miles. That's the equivalent of just seven soccer fields. With alluring red and black spots resembling a poppy on its body, the gecko's habitat on the island has been at increased risk due to a road being built through it, which threatens to draw in commercial development of the area. The gecko is on the IUCN's critically endangered list, but thankfully has been listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the highest level of protection available.