• Celebrate Reptile Awareness Day October 21

     

    Reptile Awareness Day is on October 21

    Reptile Awareness Day Day
    Image created from CC0 photos on Pexels

     

    Are you aware of reptiles?

    Well, of course you are.

    But how much do you really know about them? If the answer is “not much” or even “less than I’d like to”, then today is for you.

    It’s Reptile Awareness Day!

    We haven’t been able to discover who started this day or when. But it was probably someone who loved reptiles. Possibly even someone who recognized many reptiles are in danger of extinction. And because they’re not very cuddly—nor very cute in many cases—they don’t always get a lot of attention.

    But reptiles are quite fascinating. They deserve attention. And awareness of the dangers they face.

    And awareness has been growing. Part of that may be because of sea turtles. Lots of people like sea turtles … possibly because they’re kinda cute.

    And there’s a lot of campaigns to help save sea turtle populations.

    • Beaches restrict human activity during nesting season.
    • Turtle rescue organizations nurse injured turtles back to health & share videos of the animals.
    • Many people working to fight plastic pollution in the oceans were inspired by a turtle who got sick from eating plastic.

     

    And recently we got the good news that all these efforts seem to be working. Sea turtles aren’t out of the woods yet, but populations have been increasing in many areas.

    But today is about all reptiles. From the cute ones to the scary ones.

     

    Did You Know These Things About Reptiles?

    The definition of reptile is an amniote, other than a mammal or bird, that is cold blooded, has scutes or scales, and lays its eggs on land.

    What the heck does that mean?! Well:

    • An amniote is an animal that is surrounded by an amnion during fetal development. The amnion is the membrane closest to the fetus that holds the amniotic fluid.
    • “Cold-blooded” means they regulate their temperature by moving between warm areas (usually a sunny spot) and cool areas (a shady spot or even a hole in the ground).
    • And scutes are bony plates that cover all or part of the animal. A turtle’s shell is a layer of fused scutes. Scutes are also what make crocodile skin tough.

     

    There are four orders of reptile (an “order” is one of the categories scientists use to organize biological life—it’s right below “class,” which in this case is Reptilia):

    • Testudines: These are the turtles & tortoises.  🐢
    • Squamata: This group includes snakes and lizards, plus a weird group of animals called amphisbaenids or “worm-lizards.”  🦎
    • Crocodilia: Here we have crocodiles (of course!), along with alligators and caimans.  🐊
    • Sphenodontia (also called Rhynchocephalia) This tiny group contains just two species of tuatara, which live in New Zealand. There used to be more of these, but all but 2 are extinct now.

     

    Were you expecting frogs to be in this list somewhere?  🐸 They’re not because they’re amphibians (class: Amphibia), not reptiles. But it’s easy to be confused, because reptiles and amphibians have historically been lumped together in the study of herpetology!

     

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    Here are a few other fun facts:

    • Reptiles don’t have sweat glands.
    • Their skin is dry, not slimy. Yes, even snakes.  🐍
    • Lizards & snakes “smell” with their tongues. When you see them flicking their tongues, that’s what they’re doing. The tongue collects scent particles from the air! 🦎
    • Turtles have been around for about 200 million years. And they look pretty much the same today as they did back then!  🐢
    • A tuatara can hold its breath for up to an hour.
    • Reptiles live on every continent except Antarctica

     

    Many reptiles live a long time. Sometimes longer than humans.

    • Some tortoises live 150 years or more.
    • Ball pythons live about 30-40 years.
    • Corn snakes only live about 6-8 years
    • Tuataras live more than 100 years

     

    Sadly, their long lives don’t help them escape the threat of extinction. In fact, it may be hurting them, because the longer lived animals don’t start reproducing for 5, 10, or even 20 years. They face many threats in the meantime.

    • Humans destroy their habitat, making it harder for them to find food, shelter, and places to lay their eggs.
    • Humans steal their eggs (a big problem for sea turtles), often to sell for profit. Wild animals steal them too, but they’re looking for food to survive.
    • Humans steal grown animals from the wild to sell too. This means there are even fewer animals left to breed.

     

    Scroll down for some ideas on celebrating this unofficial, scaly, slithery holiday.

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    Ideas For Celebrating Reptile Awareness Day

    If you have a pet reptile, spoil it today! Well, as much as you can spoil a reptile, anyway. Depending on the kind you have, a favorite treat or a new perch for its habitat would probably do nicely.

    Don’t have a reptile but have been wanting one? Adopt one! But only if you’ve already been learning about what your preferred reptile needs to be healthy & happy. If you don’t know that yet, then start by reading up.

    And make sure the reptile you want is legal where you live. Many communities regulate the kinds of exotic pets you can own.

    Go to your local zoo’s reptile exhibit. It’s a great place to learn about many different reptiles.

    Want to help reptile conservation efforts? Consider donating to a reptile-focused organization. Here are a few options (remember to always check them out for yourself before donating):

     

    Are your kids reptile fans? Get them books about reptiles!

     

    For the youngest, a picture book like one of these:

     

     

     

    For grade schoolers:

     

     

     

    And for yourself or older children:

     

    How will you be celebrating Reptile Awareness Day this year?

     

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