7 Creepy, Crawly, Endangered Reptiles With Weird Genetic Traits
Photo Credit: Chris Mattison/ww.nhpa.co.uk via Arkive
If snakes, lizards, skinks, and reptiles in general give you the creeps, then we've got seven reasons to give them another chance: From tiny turtles to massive dragons, these endangered reptiles have one-of-a-kind personalities, camouflage techniques, and coloring that make them different from your average creepy-crawly.
1. Leaf Nosed Lizard
The leaf-nosed lizard, found in the Knuckles Forest Range in Sri Lanka, is a pro when it comes to blending in with its surroundings: In addition to the leafy-looking protrusion off the front of its face, the lizard can change its color to match its surroundings. Still, that hasn't helped it escape the man-made threats--deforestation, logging, fires--that landed it on the IUCN's Endangered list.
2. Round Island BoaPhoto via Wildlife Extra
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. The snake's captive population, though, is finally taking off at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey, England; 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 one of the few snakes to change its color--from a dark gray in the morning to a pale gray at night--and is reportedly "unique among all vertebrates" because of a split-top jaw that helps it grab its pray more easily.
3. Komodo DragonPhoto via pfly @ flickr
As the world's largest living lizard, the Komodo Dragon lives up to its name: the National Zoo reports that the biggest verified dragon was more than 10 feet long and weighed 366 pounds. They hunt just about any kind of meat, from deer and rodents to water buffalo and even their own young, releasing a toxic venom that incapacitates the prey before eating hooves, hides, and even bones. Only about 2,500 are believed to remain in the wild--all of those in Komodo National Park--and, over the last few years, they've been getting more aggressive toward locals--though no one's really sure why.
4. Kemp's Ridley Sea TurtlesPhoto via qnr @ flickr
The Kemp's Ridley sea turtle sets itself apart from other turtle populations in several ways: They're the smallest of all the Gulf of Mexico turtle species, measuring only about 2 feet when fully grown; they're the world's most endangered sea turtle; and they're known for their synchronized nesting activities, called arribadas, in which hundreds or thousands of females come ashore on the same day to lay their eggs. Though a 1947 video showed an estimated 42,000 Kemp's Ridley turtles nesting on the same beach, the numbers dropped dramatically over the following decades; from 1978 to 1991, the annual nests numbered only about 200. Conservation have increased the numbers back to the thousands, and although the nesting beaches are protected areas, decreasing the threat of poaching, the turtles still face danger from run-ins with fishing equipment and nets.