The world of reptiles is an interesting and amazing one and some of the beasts out there truly astound.
From the smallest to the largest, the reptile world is amazing and diverse, though none biologically astound to nearly the same degree as the largest reptiles. Whether it’s the myths of dragons that capture our imagination or a dinosaur skeleton, reptiles are a source of human fascination. Here are some of the largest and most amazing.
Reticulated Python (Scientific name Python reticulatus)
Most people aren’t aware that pythons are actually amazing swimmers. It is this ability that has allowed them to spread between the many islands of the Indo-Australian Archipelago. Besides being avid swimmers, reticulated pythons are also aggressive constrictors. This means that instead of venom, they surround and suffocate their prey before ingesting it whole. Reticulated pythons have been recorded reaching 22.8 feet in length (6.95 meters). This makes them even longer than the giant saltwater crocodile though they are much lighter in weight.
Leatherback Sea Turtle (Scientific name Dermochelys coriacea)
Gentle giants of the sea, leatherback turtles can reach up to 7 feet in length (2 meters), and have flippers that can span nearly 8 feet (3 meters). Unlike most turtles, they do not have a hard and bony shell. Instead, their carapace is designed for speed in the water and their rigid, leather-like bodies help them reach great size and speed. In fact, in the water, they are the fastest reptile on Earth. Their abundance of fat deposits helps keep them warm on their extended voyages at sea, where they can dive as deep as 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) below sea level.
Their primary food source is jellyfish. In fact, the ecosystem relies on predation by leatherbacks to keep jellyfish numbers controlled. Unfortunately, because plastic bags floating at sea resemble jellyfish, many leatherback turtles have died when they attempt to feed on the litter.
Komodo Dragon (Scientific name Varanus komodoensis)
Since the order Squamata includes both snakes and lizards, Komodo dragons are actually distantly related to the reticulated python. This so-called “King of Lizards” can reach lengths of 10 feet (3 meters) and is a ferocious hunter. Hunting primarily in the afternoon, these dangerous reptiles ambush their prey and attack with their whip-like tail, razor-sharp claws, and a mouth filled with deadly bacteria. They live up to their moniker of “dragon” quite well.
While they may not be able to breathe fire, the saliva of the komodo dragon contains strains of bacteria that are especially virulent, growing and multiplying with terrifying speed. Even a minor bite from a komodo dragon will often result in sepsis (infection of the blood) and can be fatal. And, just as dragons are immune to their own firey breath, the komodo dragon is completely immune to the virulent bacteria they carry. Scientists are still working to discover how this is even possible.
Saltwater Crocodile (Scientific name Crocodylus porosus)
The title of largest living reptile on the planet belongs to the saltwater crocodile. These living fossils can reach lengths of 20 feet (6 meters) and weigh as much as 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms). These toothy giants have enough bite force to crush a cow’s skull in their jaws. They would have no trouble eating a human. Australia keeps areas with large crocodile populations clearly marked, so that people can steer clear of the reptiles who would happily eat them for lunch. In a lot of ways it resembles Sarcosuchus one of the largest crocs that ever lived.
The range of the saltwater crocodile covers Australia and runs up to the tip of Southeast Asia. Just as their name suggests, saltwater crocs are able to head out to sea and have even reached the Sea of Japan. The order Crocodilia is even older than the dinosaurs. This means that the saltwater crocodile is as close as you will find to a living example of a prehistoric creature.