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Discovery Magazine 4/1/2009

God’s Amazing Reptiles

Have you ever heard stories about huge snakes that can swallow pigs whole? Maybe you have seen pictures of massive sea turtles that can grow to be almost 10 feet long and weigh over 2,000 pounds. Or you might have seen a television program about huge saltwater crocodiles that can grow to be 20 feet long and weigh almost 2,500 pounds. If you have read, heard, or studied about turtles, crocodiles, snakes, and lizards, than you know about reptiles.

Reptiles are a special group of God’s amazing creatures that have very unique characteristics. All reptiles have scales. This feature separates them from other groups such as mammals, which have hair, and birds with feathers. Another group of animals known as amphibians, like frogs and salamanders, sometimes looks like reptiles. But amphibians do not have scales and they are not reptiles.

Most reptiles are cold-blooded. That means that their body temperature changes as the outside temperature changes. You will rarely see a reptile on a cold, snowy day, because the cold weather causes the reptile to have a cold body temperature. The cold causes the animal to move very slowly. In fact, during the cold winter months, reptiles like snakes or lizards find underground dens where they stay warm. Sometimes as many as a hundred snakes can be found in the same den.

Reptiles can be divided into four basic groups: turtles, lizards, snakes, and crocodiles. Of these four groups, the largest reptiles alive are crocodiles. The largest crocodiles in the world are called saltwater crocodiles. Many of them live in Australia. An average saltwater crocodile is about 17 feet long and weighs about 1,500 pounds, although some grow more than 20 feet long and can weigh almost 2,500 pounds.

Snakes are unique reptiles that do not have legs. They crawl on their stomachs, using their stomach muscles and scales to move. Many snakes are venomous. They have sharp, hollow teeth called fangs. When they bite another animal or a human, the fangs act as needles, injecting venom into the body of the victim. Other snakes are called constrictors. They use their strong, muscular bodies to wrap around prey and squeeze it to death. The anaconda is one of the world’s largest snakes. It can grow to be almost 30 feet long and can have a girth (the size of its “waist”) of over 40 inches. That means an anaconda can be as big around as an adult man’s waist. It has sharp teeth, but it does not have venom. It uses its massive body to squeeze the life out of its prey.

Komodo dragons are the largest
lizards alive today. They can grow to be 10 feet long and can weigh over 300 pounds. Komodo dragons can run extremely fast for short distances. They eat mostly dead animals (called carrion), but they will occasionally attack living animals like wild pigs or deer. One amazing thing about komodo dragons is the fact that they can eat up to 80% of their own body weight in one meal. That means that if a komodo dragon weighs 100 pounds at the beginning of a meal, it can weigh 180 pounds when it gets through eating.

Leatherback sea turtles are the largest turtles alive today. They can grow to be 10 feet long and can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. They are fast swimmers and spend most of their time in the ocean. They rarely come on land. When they do, it is usually to lay eggs.

When you begin to learn about reptiles on television, in books or magazines, or on the Internet, you will probably discover some things that are false. For instance, many of the resources that tell about reptiles say that they evolved over millions of years. Furthermore, we are often told that reptiles lived hundreds of millions of years ago, but these things are not true.

Reptiles did not live hundreds of millions of years ago, nor did they evolve from other kinds of animals or into other kinds of animals. The Bible explains that God created reptiles on days five and six of the Creation week. The Bible also explains that the Earth has not been around for millions of years, but only for a few thousand years. The next time you see a huge crocodile or a massive anaconda, you can know that God created all the different kinds of animals in six days, including the amazing reptiles.



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