Reptilia

Morelet’s crocodile

Morelet’s crocodile, Crocodylus moreletii

This is the smallest of the four New World Crocodiles, usually reaching about ten feet. Described to science in 1850, it then “disappeared” until the 1920s, when it was determined to inhabit the Yucatan Peninsula and the Mexican Gulf Coast to the north of it. This is one of the first crocodilian species to be bred in US zoos, more than 40 years ago. Its very broad snout gives it an alligator-like appearance, but the tooth protruding from the shut lower jaw clearly identifies it as a crocodile.

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Panther chameleon

Panther chameleon, Furcifer pardalis

While the familiar Green anole, often seen in local gardens, may be called the “American Chameleon”, it is actually related to iguanas and basilisks. True chameleons are an entirely Old World family. Of the 160 or so species, about half are native to Madagascar. While difficult to maintain, with proper care the Panther chameleon, from Madagascar’s tropical forests, does well in captivity. Its especially brilliant and variable colors make it popular with reptile breeders and zoos. Males can grow to 20 inches in length.

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Orinoco Crocodile

Orinoco Crocodile, Crocodylus intermedius

Description: This large species is similar to the American crocodile. The body is made up of scales (scutes) that vary in shape and strength. Orinoco crocodiles can be identified by the arrangement of dorsal (back) armor with six prominent scales on the back of the neck. Osteoderms (bony deposits within each scale) are rough in […]

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Mata mata turtle

Mata mata turtle, Chelus fimbriatus

A resemblance to a pile of rotting leaves serves this reptile well. When unaware small fishes swim too close, they disappear instantly — sucked in by a powerful vacuum created when it opens its jaws. Found in quiet water across a large area of tropical South America, it usually only comes onto land to lay its eggs. It rarely swims, preferring to walk underwater, taking air at the surface through the unique proboscis in front of its tiny eyes.

Caiman Lizard

Caiman Lizard, Dracaena guianesis

In North America, the Teiid family of lizards is represented by rather small racerunners and whiptails, which have the appearance of “typical lizards”. In South America, Teiids occur in much greater variety. One of the most specialized is the semi-aquatic Caiman lizard, named for its crocodilian-like scales. Growing up to four feet long, often with a bright orange head contrasting with a greenish body, it might present a ferocious appearance. Its diet, however, consists almost entirely of snails, which it crushes with enormous molar-like teeth.

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