Reptiles

Credits: Neil Aldridge

Stealthily moving through the undergrowth, sneaking up on its prey, waiting to strike… And that’s just the TV presenter! We’ve all seen nature programmes where action men jump on unwitting reptiles hoping to show the camera their exotic prey. But what’s the real deal in the UK? Are there dragons among us?

Yes! We’ve got three species of lizard and three snakes slithering around our countryside. And a good compost heap, log pile or even an old sheet of tin can attract common lizards, grass snakes and slow-worms – which may look like snakes but are actually legless lizards!

Our reptiles have evolved from prehistoric beginnings in steaming swamps some 300 million years ago. Maybe the most famous reptiles to walk the earth, the dinosaurs (which means ‘terrible lizard’), gave us giants like Brachiosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Reptiles have scales and lay eggs, although some can have live babies. They regularly shed their skin as they grow and snakes can leave behind a whole cast of themselves.

Because they are cold-blooded, reptiles get their energy from the sun and can be spotted basking on top of rocks and logs. This makes August a great time to go reptile-spotting in the UK. Visit heathlands and look for the brown diamond pattern of the adder. Although it’s our only venomous snake, it’ll only bite if really hassled but don’t get too close. In the south, try spotting our rarest reptile, the sand lizard, with its bright green sides.

 

Did you know?


Reptiles also use a special organ in the roof of their mouths to ‘taste’ the chemicals in the air when they flick out their tongues.