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Examine a variety of animals from this group to determine similarities among them. You might observe turtles, tortoises, snakes, alligators, caimans, crocodiles, gavials, lizards, and tuataras. "Too-a-TERR-ras" are large iguana-like reptiles living on certain islands off the coast of New Zealand. It is the only surviving rhynchocephalian. "Ring-co-ceff-AIL-ian" means having a snout at the front of its' head. Where else could a snout be?

"Gavv-i-als" are large, harmless crocodilian reptiles living in India.

Reptiles evolved from amphibians, and were the dominant fauna in the Mesozoic era, often called the Age of Reptiles. They are cold-blooded, dry-skinned vertebrates of the class Reptilia, and live in a variety of habitats in warm and temperate zones. They range in size from 2-inch long lizards to 30-foot long snakes. Most reptiles have low-slung bodies with long tails, supported by four short legs with claws on their toes. Snakes of course, don't have legs. They don't have arms, either. I read in the paper that cold-blooded animals' bones sometimes develop growth rings (like trees do) and by examining these rings, those who wish to know can find out when food was plentiful and when it was not.

You will find that most of the animals in the group live on land, have lungs, and thick, waterproof skins. They, unlike amphibians, do not have gills at any stage of their development. Nearly all reptiles lay porous, shelled eggs, or bear their young, on land.

About seven thousand species of reptiles have been identified.

I once saw an article in Discover magazine that told of blind cold-blooded, invertebrate, hot-headed ice borers living in Antarctica. They lived in burrows in the ice, and their metabolism was such that their heads would become red-hot and they could tunnel through the ice by utilizing that facility. The article went on to say that these animals would melt the ice around a penguin (or other meal possibility), the penguin would sink into their burrow, and a whole bunch of these ice borer guys would part out the penguin. It further stated that this explains the mysterious disappearance of a well-known oceanographer who was lost in Antarctica some years ago. This brilliant writer went about sharing that information with others, who were equally amazed by this animal. The following month, Discover magazine published several letters to the editor, which spoke to this amazing animal. Turns out that the blind, cold-blooded, invertebrate, hot-headed ice borers really do not exist. Discover magazine had played a successful April Fool joke!


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