Q:

What are the main characteristics of reptiles?

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Quick Answer

Reptiles are scaly ectothermic creatures with backbones and a lung system, according to the National Wildlife Federation. More than 280 reptile species are found in the United States, and approximately 8,700 species have been identified across the globe.

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What are the main characteristics of reptiles?
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Full Answer

The most common sub-classes of Reptilia include turtles, tortoises, crocodiles, alligators, snakes and lizards. As ectotherms, reptiles cannot regulate their own body heat and must derive warmth from environmental sources, Scholastic states. This characteristic is often described as being "cold-blooded," because a reptile's body temperature can fluctuate drastically in differing climates. Reptiles are diverse in size, ranging from tiny dwarf geckos to pythons as long as 33 meters.

All reptiles have vertebrae and can breathe air. Equipped with tough, dry scales, reptilian creatures are able to hold moisture in their skins and prevent dehydration in dry habitats, according to the Saint Louis Zoo. This thick layer of outer skin is shed multiple times during a reptile's life cycle, whether all at once or in flakes. Turtles and tortoises stand out from other reptilian species because of their hard protective shells made of strong bony structures.

In all reptile species, fertilization occurs internally, and developing offspring are protected by an amniotic egg that can survive on land, according to Scholastic. The embryo is surrounded by a resilient outer shell, an internal double-walled sac and amniotic fluid. Unlike many amphibians, reptiles are fully formed at birth and do not progress through any larval stages.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Do all reptiles have scales?

    A:

    All reptiles have scales or scutes that cover their skin, as this is a defining characteristic of the class Reptilia. Reptilian skin is horny and waterproof but lacks the thickness of mammalian skin. In some reptiles, the scales or scutes have a bony base that provides more protection.

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  • Q:

    Are there any reptiles that do not lay eggs?

    A:

    Although most reptiles lay eggs, some reptiles retain the eggs, and the young are hatched inside the mother's body. Others are completely live-bearing, and no hatching is involved at all.

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  • Q:

    What adaptations do reptiles have?

    A:

    Reptiles have several notable adaptations which help them survive, including their ability to regulate their own body temperatures, their coverings of protective scales, their internal fertilization processes, amniotic eggs and in most cases claws for digging and defense. Some reptiles, like glass lizards and snakes, do not have limbs and thus are not effective diggers or burrowers.

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  • Q:

    Where do reptiles live?

    A:

    Reptiles live primarily in temperate and tropical climates. Reptiles are cold-blooded, which means they are unable to regulate the internal temperature of their bodies. Because of this, they have to live in warm and sunny climates.

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