What is a reptile?

Reptiles are categorized as poikilothermic, creatures as they cannot regulate their own internal temperature so they require heat (usually sunlight) to digest their food and provide them with energy, but they do not exhibit any distinct differences like birds and mammals do, so they are then classified further into orders:

  • Testudines which are characterised by a special bony or cartilaginous shell developed from their ribs and acts as a protective shield.(turtles, terrapins and tortoises)
  • Squamata which are scaled reptiles comprised of lizards and snakes
  • Crocodylia comprised of mostly large, predatory, semiaquatic reptiles (crocodiles and alligators)
  • Rhynchocephalia are lizard like reptiles but the only living relatives to this order are the Tuatara which are endemic to New Zealand.

Reptiles are typically distinguished by their dry scaly water proof skin like snakes and lizards however there are some exceptions such as turtles and tortoises that have developed thicker skin and a protective shell. This class of animals usually lay soft shelled eggs on the land but they differ from amphibians (even though all reptiles are descendant from a prehistoric amphibian believed to be the ‘labyrinthodont’) in the fact the copulate together and then produce fertilized eggs. Reptiles also possess more advanced circulatory, respiratory, excretory, and nervous systems compared to their amphibian ancestors.

In terms of reproduction and after care most reptile offspring are independent from birth and receive no parental care. This is very different from the care received by birds, mammals and even some insects species.

Ecosystem benefits

Reptiles are important components of the food webs in most ecosystems. They fill a critical role both as predator and prey species.

  • Herbivorous species are important seed disperses, particularly on island habitats. They are also known to act as pollinators and with some plant-reptile interactions only one reptile species feeds on this plant facilitating its pollination cycle.
  • Top predators are often keystone species regulating lower level specie populations as well as contributing to the food chain as prey whilst they are still young.
  • Some species are considered critical for the way they modify their habitat providing important refuges for many species of fish, turtle and other aquatic species, as well as a source of water for birds, terrestrial animals and plants.

Human benefits

Reptiles have been a part of human culture for many years as a source of protein, regulating rodent populations that can lead to the spread of disease, traded as pets and used in traditional medicines but also as symbols of power, strength among many others. Many of these beliefs have lead to the loss of many species and huge population declines.

This is a continual project so our website will be regularly updated with new information and species, so be patient as some areas of the website may be incomplete.

If you have any pictures or information from or about the island please help us to improve our database by sending your information through to us via our contact page