Reptiles do not form a distinct evolutionary group. Rather, the class Reptilia consists of four orders which are vary different from each other. As an example, lizards are more closely related to birds than they are to turtles! As a result, reptiles are as easy to define by what they aren't as by what they are. Living species of reptiles are categorized by four orders; Testudines, which include turtles; the Squamata order includes lizards and snakes; the order Crocodylia, which includes crocodiles and alligators; and the order of Rhynchocephalia that contains the lizard-like tuataras. Reptiles have no fur or feathers but have scales. They should not be confused with us amphibians because reptiles have dry, water-proof skins and eggs, as well as internal fertilization, and more advanced circulatory, respiratory, excretory, and nervous systems.
Reptiles evolved from the labryrinthodont amphibians 300 million years ago. They radiated out across the landscape, quickly diversifying as they went, and became the dominant life form on the planet during the Mesozoic Era, also known as the Age of Reptiles. Reptiles have been around a very long time. And whether or not you're a fan, they are an important part of the ecosystem. They fill a critical role as both predator and as prey.
With the weekend upon us, why not spend a little time on Saturday...Reptile Awareness Day...learning more about reptiles and, maybe, even developing a passion for them? Like frogs, many reptiles are facing extinction because of habitat loss. If you're looking for ways to celebrate reptiles this weekend (or anytime, really), why not plan on visiting your local library and reading up on these fabulous creatures? Or join, and support, a reptile conservation project. Got a reptile pet? Bring him to school for Show and Tell...with teacher approval, of course! Another cool way to celebrate reptiles is to pack up the kids and take them to a local zoo where they can marvel at the wondrous and exotic reptiles housed there. Perhaps you might want to spend a day, this weekend, herping...a fun and educational experience for the entire family. One of the best ways to celebrate our friends, the reptiles, is by purchasing a subscription to a reptile magazine. When you're finished reading it, leave it at your doctor's, dentist's, or vet's office. You'll never know how many others can learn about (and come to appreciate) reptiles from just your subscription. Finally, make a resolution to visit at least one reptile show before the next Reptile Awareness Day rolls around again. And in case you hadn't noticed, the acronym for this special day is RAD, which as we all know, means awesome and very cool. Reptiles are rad!
Whatever your plans are this weekend, I hope you'll spend some time appreciating all your animals friends...not just the ones who are cute and fuzzy. As for me, I'm spending RAD with my snakes friends and chillin' out...just enjoying the beautiful autumnal weather.
Have a great Saturday and Sunday. I hope to see you all back here on Monday morning.