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10 Unique Reptiles

Blue-Tongued Skink
Blue-tongued skink at Kilcare, NSW, Australia. Doug Beckers, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Reptiles, and particularly dinosaurs, ruled the Earth for millions of years before mammals came along. Still today, many reptile species exist – over 12,000 in fact. Here we look at some of these unique reptile species.

Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus)

Tuatara lizard in New Zealand. Image via Depositphotos

Native to New Zealand, these reptiles are the only surviving members of the order Rhynchocephalia, which thrived around 200 million years ago. This has earned tuataras the nickname “living fossils.” 

Tuataras have a third “parietal eye” on their forehead, which is visible in hatchlings and helps regulate their circadian rhythms (physical, mental, and behavioural responses to the environment).

Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis

The Biggest Komodo Dragon Ever Recorded
Komodo dragon on Rinca Island, Indonesia. Image via Depositphotos

You may have heard of the real-life dragons living on the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, and Gili Motang. Komodo dragons are the largest living lizard species, with an impressive size, powerful bite, and venomous saliva. 

These vicious predators can grow up to 10 ft (3 m) long and weigh over 150 lb (70 kg). Further, their venom contains anticoagulants and toxins that lower blood pressure, induce shock, and prevent clotting, making their bite deadly.

Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum)

gila monster
The gila monster has a beautiful pattern on its scales. Image via Depositphotos

The only other living venomous lizard species besides the Komodo dragon is the Gila Monster, which is found primarily in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. 

Gila monsters are characterized by their black-and-orange bead-like scales. Their venom is produced in glands behind the eyes and delivered through grooves in its teeth. Notably, they primarily use their venom for defence, rather than hunting.

Flying Snake (Chrysopelea spp.) 

flying snake
This flying snake is a colubrid snake found in both South and Southeast Asia. Shagil Kannur, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

So flying snakes cannot actually “fly,” but they are rather adept at gliding incredible distances through the air, which looks like flying. 

Found in the forests of Southeast Asia, these snakes can launch themselves from tree branches, flatten their bodies, and undulate in a side-to-side motion to glide through the air. They can cover distances of up to 100 ft (30 m) to escape predators and move between trees in search of prey.

Blue-Tongued Skink (Tiliqua spp.)

Blue-Tongued Skink
Blue-tongued skink at Kilcare, NSW, Australia. Doug Beckers, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Blue-tongued skinks can amazingly change the shade of blue their tongues are depending on which predator they’re trying to deter. They also use their tongue, which can be covered in a thick mucus, to catch prey.

These skinks have stout bodies and smooth, shiny scales. They are native to Australia. 

Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus spp.) 

glass lizard
This large glass lizard was observed sunning early in the morning in Jefferson County, Missouri. Peter Paplanus from St. Louis, Missouri, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They may look like snakes because they don’t have any limbs, but glass lizards are indeed lizards. The name “glass” comes from the fact that their tail easily breaks off as a defence mechanism against predators, allowing them to escape while the predator is temporarily distracted by the tail. 

Glass lizards are found in various parts of North America, Europe, and Asia.

Frilled Lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii

frilled lizard
Frilled lizard showing off its frill. Image via Depositphotos

These guys remind me of Elizabethan-era nobility (you know – because of the neck ruffs). Native to Australia and southern New Guinea, frilled lizards are aptly named after the impressive frill around their necks. 

When threatened, this lizard fans out its frill, opens its mouth wide, and hisses to scare off predators. Typically, the frill lies folded back against its body, but it can be quickly unrolled in defence. This lizard can also run standing straight up on its hind legs.

Matamata Turtle (Chelus fimbriatus)

Matamata Turtle
The matamata turtle is excellent at camouflage in its natural habitat. Image via Depositphotos

When I said “unique reptiles” – I meant it. Matamata turtles, found in South American swamps and rivers, have flattened, triangular-shaped heads and rough, bark-like shells that provide excellent camouflage among submerged vegetation and debris. 

Their unique look and sedentary lifestyle allows matamata turtles to ambush prey, primarily fish, by quickly extending its head and creating a vacuum to suck them into their wide mouths.

Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus

thorny devil
Thorny devils blend in well with their surroundings. Image via Depositphotos

Of course thorny devils are native to Australia. They are small lizards characterized by thick, “thorny” spines that function to protect them from predators in the Australian outback. 

These fascinating reptiles have a unique method of drinking water: they channel water along the grooves in their skin towards their mouths. Thorny devils can collect water from any part of their body, allowing them to stay hydrated in the arid desert.

Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys temminckii

alligator snapping turtle
Alligator snapping turtle with wide open mouth underwater. Image via Depositphotos

Cladded in armour, alligator snapping turtles have an impressive bite force of 1,000 PSI, over 8 times that of humans. Its most unique feature is its worm-like tongue, which it wiggles to attract prey, then snaps its jaws shut when the prey takes the bait (literally).

They are native to freshwater habitats in North America and can weigh over 200 lb (90 kg). 


Chameleons may be more well-known than other reptiles, but they still remarkably unique. Image via Depositphotos

Thanks for reading! Have you checked out our forum yet? Share your favorite reptiles with us! 

If you’d like to learn more about reptiles, visit our Reptile page here!  

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