reptiles – mysterious and misunderstood
The reptiles as we know them are the turtles and tortoises, tuataras, lizards and snakes, and crocodilians. If you look at the evolutionary history of these animals, though, you can see that that’s not a very reasonable division: to be monophyletic, and still include all the groups listed above, we’d also need to include birds and mammals in the group. One of the reasons why birds and mammals haven’t been included is that unlike the rest of the reptiles, they’re warm-blooded; and probably because we as humans and mammals feel like snakes and crocodiles are so different from us that it’d be strange to include ourselves in their group. I, on the other hand, love to see these evolutionary connections and see how we’re actually reptiles, and birds are actually the only extant dinosaurs – maybe I just think that humans need to be a bit more humble and realize that we’re just as unique as any other species.
Anyway, after all this babble, I’m still going to make a post with pictures of the traditional reptiles. I’m quite fond of them and find them very intriguing animals, to the extent that I actually have snakes as roommates. Their way of life seems so different and so interesting – since their body temperature to a large extent follows that of their environment, they move around a lot to heat up or cool down, they can be highly active or very slow, and some of them have incredible adaptations to survive through harsh times, such as winter. My admiration of them is also why I love taking pictures of them – at the same time realizing that I really can’t even imagine knowing what they’re thinking or how they’re feeling.
Here are a few of the pictures I’ve taken of snakes, lizards and crocodilians over the years – I hope you enjoy them!
An old picture of one of Finland’s three snake species: the grass snake, Natrix natrix. They’re easy to recognize thanks to the yellow spots behind the head. They’re non-venomous and eat their prey alive without constriction. Below are a few more photos of this beautiful snake:
As with everything else, there are exceptions: this grass snake doesn’t have the yellow spots that distinguish the grass snake from black vipers (in Finland). It’s still easy to see that it’s a grass snake based on the scales of the head and the slenderness of the body.
Another Finnish snake species, the European viper, Vipera berus. It’s Finland’s only venomous snake, but it only poses a threat to small children and pets (and allergic people). The third Finnish snake species, the smooth snake Coronella austriaca, can only be found on the Åland islands and is a non-venomous constrictor.
Of the two Finnish lizard species, the viviparous lizard, Zootoca vivipara, is the only one with legs. The other lizard found here is the slow-worm, Anguis fragilis, a legless lizard.
Moving on to more exotic (for me) species: this is a stunningly beautiful carpet python, Morelia spilota, in a reptile house in Helsinki, Finland. Pythons are constrictors.
These sweethearts are highly venomous green mambas (Dendroaspis angusticeps), also resident in the reptile house Tropicario. They occur naturally in much of eastern Africa.
A slightly different view of a caiman.
The black water monitor, Varanus salvator ssp. komaini, is an endangered big lizard.
This is Damien Puff, a friend’s blue-tongued skink. These lizards naturally occur in Australasia.
And lastly, a picture of our own book snake. This is Polly, a ball python.