Truth and Lies about Reptiles and Amphibians
May 10, 2011 Leave a comment
If you’re planning on spending any time outdoors this summer, you’ll probably have a few encounters with amphibians and reptiles. Reptiles and amphibians can seem scary and creepy because they’re so different from us mammals. They have those beady little eyes, forked tongues, and they’re cold blooded. This doesn’t make them lowly or inherently inferior creatures; by using the environment to regulate their temperature, they save energy for other things, like reproduction, defense, or consorting with other beady-eyed, forked-tongue beasts, like Beelzebub.1
There are many myths and untruths attributed to reptiles and amphibians, like that snakes can hypnotize their prey with their eyes, or that reptilians run both the GOP and the Tea Party. In fact, snakes have poor eyesight and lack moveable eyelids, so while they may appear to be staring intensely, they might just be asleep. And everyone knows that there’s no such thing as Lizard People.2
With the help of Mary Taylor Young’s The Guide to Colorado Reptiles and Amphibians, I’m going to address some of the rumors swirling around about our herptile neighbors.
- Snakes are slimy. Snakes not naturally slimy, though glistening scales can give the appearance of a wet sheen. Snake skin is naturally dry, and snakes feel more like a garden hose than a slug.
- You can get warts from touching frogs and toads. Warts come from human viruses, not from amphibians. Bumpy skin on frogs and toads helps to camouflage them in their habitat. A few toads and frogs secrete toxins through their skin that can can cause skin irritations and may be poisonous to humans. In Colorado, spadefoot toads secrete toxins from glands behind their eyes, which deliver a nasty punch to predators that try to eat them. Humans don’t have to worry too much about this, as long as they handle toads gently and wash their hands afterward.
- All reptiles lay eggs. While egg laying, or oviparous, reptiles make up the largest group of reptiles, there are a number of reptiles that carry the eggs internally (ovoviviparous reptiles) and appear to deliver offspring via live birth. Many Colorado garter snakes and vipers belong to this second group. The term viper is derived from the Latin words vivo (“living”) and pario (“give birth”).
- Turtle and tortoise shells are removable, just like the shell of a hermit crab. Turtle and tortoise shells are made of living tissue, fused from the bones of their back and rib cage. Any injury to the shell, because it’s a part of their body, could lead to an infection, sickness, or death for a turtle or tortoise.
- All common checkered whiptails are female clones! This is true! Colorado is home to three clone armies of she-lizards: the common checkered whiptail, the Colorado checkered whiptail, and the plateau striped whiptail. These lizards grow from unfertilized eggs with a full complement of chromosomes. These daughters are all born “fertile”— since their eggs don’t require fertilization, they’re born with eggs that are ready to grow into offspring—and are complete genetic duplicates of the mother. Because there is no mixing of genes in their procreation, these species cannot evolve except through mutation.
1This is not intended to be a factual statement.
2This isn’t true! Reptilians have infiltrated some of our top government offices. They’re here to increase global warming and terraform the Earth for a future colonization of our planet. Trust no one!