Page 118 - A Field Guide to Fairfax County's Plants and Wildlife
P. 118

Reptiles are a class of vertebrate animals that includes turtles, tortoises,
snakes, lizards, crocodiles, alligators and tuataras (lizard-like animals that
live in New Zealand).

All reptiles have certain traits in common:
• Lungs for breathing
• Most are “cold-blooded;” they do not keep a constant body
temperature but are cool in cool environments and warm in warm
• A heart with three or four chambers to circulate blood around the body
• Some reptiles have scales
• Except for snakes, reptiles usually have four legs with five toes on
• Most lay eggs that have a protective membrane that keeps them from
drying out; a few species give birth to live young.

Reptiles are important as food for other animals and for controlling
populations of species lower in the food web. Some reptiles are predators
of insects and small mammals like rodents, so they help to control
organisms that humans consider pests.

Some reptiles spend part of the
time in the water in order to cool
off, feed or mate. Preventing
pollutants such as pesticides
from running off the land and into
bodies of water is one way to help
protect reptiles and the plants
and animals they eat. Other ways
to help reptiles survive include
preserving habitat, not capturing
healthy animals from the wild to
keep, and not releasing non-native
species into the wild that may kill
or compete with native species for
food or habitat.

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