Dwarf Caiman (Paleosuchus palpebrosus)
Range: Dwarf caiman is a small crocodilian in the alligator family from northern and central South America. It is found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. Dwarf caiman is a freshwater species and is found in forested riverine habitats and areas of flooded forest around lakes. It seems to prefer rivers and streams with fast-flowing water, but it is also found in quiet, nutrient-poor waters in Venezuela and southeastern Brazil.
Description: Some refer to the caiman as a baby alligator; however, at adulthood caimans typically only grow to 4-5 in length and weighing 40-50 ponds. The neck is relatively slender and the dorsal scutes are less prominent than in the smooth-fronted caiman. The double rows of scutes on the tail are small and project vertically. Adults are dark brownish-black with a dark brown head, while juveniles are brown with black bands.
Diet: These caimans are mainly nocturnal. Adults feed on fish, amphibians, small mammals, birds, crabs, shrimp, molluscs, and other invertebrates, which they catch in the water or on land. Juveniles eat fewer fish, but also consume crustaceans, tadpoles, frogs, and snails, as well as land invertebrates, such as beetles.
Lifespan: A typical clutch size varies from 10-70 eggs, depending on species. Though somewhat undetermined, current estimates place caimans' life expectancy at 30-40 years. It should be noted, however, that larger crocodilians have been documented with lifespans of 70-90 years.
Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina)
Range: Eastern box turtles are found in the wild across the eastern United States, though their numbers are dwindling. They live in a wide variety of habitats, from damp forests to dry grassy fields, and will often venture into shallow water and hibernate when it gets cold. Eastern box turtles are predominantly terrestrial and live in a variety of vegetative areas, including shrubby grasslands, marshy meadows, open woodlands and field forest edges. They are often found near streams or ponds, or areas that have experienced heavy rainfall.
Description: Eastern box turtles have a high, dome-like carapace and a hinged plastron that allows total shell closure. The carapace can be of variable coloration, but is normally found brownish or black and is accompanied by a yellowish or orangish radiating pattern of lines, spots or blotches. The eastern box turtle is small (4.5 to 6 inches shell width, up to eight inch shell length), land turtle with a high, dome-like upper shell ("carapace"). Younger box turtles can be distinguished by their flatter carapaces.
Diet: These turtles are omnivorous and will eat almost anything, including berries, insects, roots, flowers, eggs, and amphibians. Younger turtles tend to be more carnivorous than adults, hunting in ponds and streams for food. As adults, box turtles primarily feed on land.
Lifespan: Staying small in size, most range from 4.5 to 6 inches, but occasionally reach over 7 inches. In captivity, box turtles are known to live over 100 years, but in the wild, often live much shorter lives due to disease and predation.
Green-tree Python (Morelia viridis)
Range: The green tree python lives in Australia and New Guinea, and on the small islands that surround New Guinea. Suitable patches of rainforests can be found scattered throughout the Cape York Peninsula in Australia. Though usually a snake of the trees, the tree python sometimes prowls on the ground as well. Tropical rain forests are the green tree python's native habitat, so captive snakes need a warm and humid environment. Throughout their natural range they seldom experience temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Offer a range of temperatures within the enclosure so the animal can select its ideal temperature.
Description: Juvenile green tree pythons are typically yellow, red or dark brown-black. As they mature, their color changes to the bright green many adults display. Some individuals keep their bright-yellow juvenile colors, and some turn straight to blue. Each color is unique and stunning in its own way. The green tree python averages 4.8-5.0 feet in length but can grow up to seven feet. Adults are bright green with white or yellow underbellies. They have a white or light blue vertical stripe along the body, and white or yellow lips, chin and throat.
Diet: Green tree pythons are nonvenomous, carnivorous reptiles that feed on tree lizards, birds and other small arboreal vertebrates. The adults sometimes leave the trees, feeding on terrestrial rodents as well.
Lifespan: After hatching, they change their colors from the juvenile yellow or maroon to the adult green. On average, it takes six to eight months to change colors. Green tree pythons live for about 20 years.
Grey Rat Snake (Pantherophis spiloides)
Range: An agile climber, the gray rat snake is at home from the ground to the tree tops in many types of hardwood forest and cypress stands, along tree-lined streams and fields, and even around barns and sheds in close proximity to people.It shelters under rocks, logs and other debris as well as in soil cracks. Its distribution extends from central inland New South Wales, north to several isolated populations near Rockhampton in Queensland.
Description: Gray rat snakes are dark to light gray with darker gray or brown blotches. The juveniles of all subspecies resemble the gray rat. The belly is whitish in color near the head and becomes checkered or mottled toward the tail. Average adult size is 36-72 inches, record is 84.25 inches. Juveniles and adults are gray with dark blotches. The belly is sandy-gray with dark square blotches. The underside of the tail typically has 2 dark stripes.
Diet: Gray rat snakes are powerful constrictors that enjoy live reptile food, feeding readily on appropriate-sized mice and rats. They will also take birds, chicks, and even eggs. To witness the snake feed can, in it self, be a treat.
Lifespan: The gray rat snake does well in captivity and is usually easy to keep. Its average lifespan in captivity is 15 years, with one individual reportedly living for 22 years.
Mata Mata Turtle (Chelus fimbriata)
Range: The mata mata inhabits slow moving, black water streams, stagnant pools,marshes, and swamps ranging into northern Bolivia, eastern Peru, Ecuador, eastern Colombia, Venezuela, the Guianas, and northern and central Brazil.
Description: The mata mata is a South American turtle with a striking appearance. Its carapace, or shell, is rough and knobby, and its long neck has skin fringes, bumps and ridges. The mata mata turtle's large, flat head features a wide mouth and a long, snorkel-like snout.
Diet: Mata mata turtles are carnivores that prey on fish and small invertebrates. In the wild, they like fish, frogs and insects. In captivity, they can be fed minnows, mollies, goldfish, guppies and earthworms.
Lifespan: Exact details for the mata mata turtle life span is not really known, but most documentation shows the turtle's average life is anywhere from 40 to 75 years. Some turtles can live more than 100 years if given the proper care.
Mossy Frog (Theloderma corticale)
Range: As its name suggests, the Vietnamese mossy frog lives in Vietnam; specifically in northern Vietnam, a region defined by limestone cliffs and evergreen rainforests. Vietnamese mossy frogs are found in flooded caves and in the banks of rocky mountain streams at elevations of 2,300 to 3,280 feet. Vietnamese mossy frogs are found at an elevation of about 3,000 feet in flooded caves and on the banks of mountain streams. They are nocturnal and semi-aquatic, spending much of their time hiding in the water under rocks and floating plants.
Description: Unlike many frogs that are smooth-skinned, Mossy Frogs have rough and uneven skin, with many spines and tubercles (wart-like growths). Coloration is many shades of green with red and brownish-black to black patches. When resting, they appear to be very flat and nearly as wide as they are long.
Diet: Mossy frogs hunt large insects such as crickets and cockroaches. At the Smithsonian's National Zoo, they eat a diet of crickets, cockroaches and earthworms.
Lifespan: Vietnamese mossy frogs breed in rock cavities where water has flooded the floor. Longevity data is very scarce for mossy frogs, but some Vietnamese mossy frogs have been documented to live well into their teens in zoos, so a lifespan of 20 years or longer is not out of the question.
Pancake Tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri)
Range: This species dwells in the arid savannas and scrublands of East Africa. They also like kojpe habitat, which consists of rocky outcrops. They are found living is isolated colonies. Pancake tortoises are native to southern Kenya, and northern and eastern Tanzania.
Description: Hence the name, Pancake tortoises are small and flat with a thin, flexible shell, flat looking much like a pancake. The shell is normally 6 to 7 inches long and an inch or so high. On the legs, they have bigger scales with points that project downward and outward. The plastron (bottom shell) is pale yellow with dark brown seams and light yellow rays, and the head, limbs and tail are yellow-brown.
Diet: These herbivores feed on a variety of fresh and dry grasses, and some fruit in the wild. In captivity they eat a variety of grasses, hay, greens (such as collard, turnip and mustard), along with dandelion, endive, squash, carrots, hibiscus leaves, and many other vegetables and leafy greens.
Lifespan: The pancake tortoise is classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List and listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It is unknown their exact lifespan in the wild; however, in captivity, they May live as long as 25 years. Currently, there are 500 living in zoos around the world.
Plain belly Water Snake (Nerodia erythrogaster)
Range: Plain belly water snakes are relatively large, thick bodied, harmless, semi-aquatic snakes. They often can be seen sunning on logs or overhanging branches from which they drop into the water when alarmed. These snakes often are confused with the venomous cottonmouth water moccasin and are killed needlessly. They will, however, bite hard and repeatedly when cornered or captured. Plain belly water snakes can be found in a variety of aquatic habitats, but are most common in larger, more permanent bodies of water such as rivers, swamps, marshes, and ponds. During hot, humid weather, they will, however, wander considerable distances away from water. This species ranges through much of the southeastern United States, from Michigan to Delaware in the north, and Texas to northern Florida in the south, but it is absent from the Florida peninsula and the higher elevations of the Appalachian Mountains.
Description: They are usually 30-40 inches long, but can reach lengths of up to five feet. Their coloration is greenish gray on top and plain yellow underneath. Their scales are keeled. Hatchling snakes have distinct color patterns which fade with age. Red belly water snakes are roughly the same size as their yellow bellied relatives (30-40 inches in length) with a 62 inch long individual having been recorded. Their coloration is brown on top with a plain red or orange-red belly. Their scales are keeled. Hatchlings are strongly patterned with a pinkish background color. Again, juvenile color patterns gradually fade with age.
Diet: Adept swimmers and divers, plain belly water snakes obtain most of their food from the water. Their diet includes fish, crayfish, salamanders, and frogs.
Lifespan: Like other North American water snakes and garter snakes, plain belly water snakes bear live young. They breed from April to June and 5-30 young are born from August to October. Not much is known about their lifespan in the wild; however, in captivity they will live upwards of 20 years.
Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobatidae)
Dart frogs are amphibians, and they are known by that name (dart) because indigenous people use the frog’s poison for blow darts and arrow poison. All wild dart frogs secrete toxins through their skin. However, captive-hatched frogs and wild ones that have been in captivity are not toxic. This is greatly due to diet variances from captivity to the wild.
Color shades vary among frogs within a species. It is the skin that contains the frog's poison. These beautiful colors are warnings to potential predators that the frog is poisonous. Several species of non-poisonous frogs evolved with similar coloring to avoid being eaten.
Range: Poison Dart frogs live in rainforest habitats in Central and South America. They can be found in trees, as well as under leaves, logs, and rocks on the forest floor. At the Zoo, you can view our Poison Dart Frog collection in the Reptile House in our South American realm.
Description: Various colors, brilliant and bright (blues, greens, yellows, purple, reds). Poison dart frogs are typically small size, from 1/2 to 2 inches long, they are hard to see.
Diet: The frogs eat mostly small insects, including fruit flies, ants, termites, young crickets, and tiny beetles, which are the ones scientists think may be responsible for the frogs' toxicity.
Lifespan: Healthy dart frogs live one to three years in the wild. However, these frogs typically live for much longer than that in captivity, having been reported to live as long as 25 years.
Reticulated Python (Malayopython reticulatus)
The reticulated python is a snake species in the family Pythonidae native to South and Southeast Asia. It is the world's longest snake and listed as least concern on the IUCN Red List because of its wide distribution. Like all pythons, it is a non-venomous constrictor. Reticulated pythons, like boa's or anacondas, subdue their prey via a process of constriction. They wrap around them and squeeze harder and harder. Originally, it was thought that these snakes killed their prey via suffocation – slowly squeezing the breath out of them.
Range: Reticulated pythons are found in Southeast Asia, Indochina, Indonesia and the Philippines. They inhabit steamy tropical rainforests, are heavily dependent on water, and can often be found near small rivers or ponds. The reticulated python lives in rain forests, woodlands, and nearby grasslands. It is also associated with rivers and is found in areas with nearby streams and lakes. An excellent swimmer, it has even been reported far out at sea and has consequently colonized many small islands within its range.
Description: Some have light tan coloration with a brown and black pattern, while others are predominately dark colored. Their scale pattern tends to be somewhat diamond-shaped and irregular. The longest confirmed specimen of this species measured nearly 23 feet long!
Diet: Reticulated pythons typically feeds on birds and mammals. This diet even extends to dogs, large deer, and pigs. Small snakes feed mostly on rats, but shift to larger mammals (e.g. pangolins, porcupines, monkeys, wild pigs, and mouse deer) at only 9 – 12 feet in body length.
Lifespan: On average, reticulated pythons live 15 to 20 years, with some individual snakes reaching 25 or even 30 years of age.
Rhinoceros Iguana (Cyclura cornuta)
Range: The rhinoceros iguana is a threatened species of lizard in the family Iguanidae that is primarily found on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, shared by the Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Rhinoceros Iguanas are most abundant in, but not restricted to, tropical dry and moist lowland forests and shrublands. These tropical dry forests are characterized by xeric, rocky habitats of eroded limestone in coastal terraces and lowlands of mainland Hispaniola and several offshore islands.
Description: They vary in length from 24 to 54 ices and skin colors range from a steely grey to a dark green and even brown. Their name derives from the bony-plated pseudo-horn or outgrowth which resembles the horn of a rhinoceros on the iguana's snout. They are terrestrial, but will climb if they need to reach better fruits or a more suitable sun basking spot, or for overseeing defended areas. Males are territorial, and will defend their territories aggressively. Rhinoceros Iguanas are sexually mature between 5 to 9 years of age.
Diet: Rhinoceros iguanas are mainly herbivores, eating a wide variety of leaves, fruits, flowers, and seeds. They occasionally eat animal food, mainly insects, land crabs, or carrion (especially dead birds and fish). Young iguanas in particular may take insects and other small animals.
Lifespan: Like all Iguanas, Rhino Iguanas are fairly long lived lizards. It is believed that in captivity, a baby Rhino Iguana for sale can live as long as 30 years! Most consider 20 years an average lifespan for the Rhino Iguana.
Rough Green Grass Snake (Opheodrys aestivus)
Range: Rough Green Snakes are found throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey west to central Texas and south throughout Florida. Rough green snakes can be found in a variety of habitats but are most common in open forests and edge habitats. They can be particularly abundant along the margins of wetlands and rivers, where they search overhanging vegetation for insects.
Description: The rough green snake is bright green above and has a yellowish belly, affording it excellent camouflage in green vegetation and making them difficult to see in the wild even though they are relatively common in their habitat. It has keeled dorsal scales, which are arranged in 17 rows at mid-body. Rough green snakes grow to be around 2 to 3 feet long, while smooth green snakes are smaller and shorter, usually maxing out at about 2 feet.
Diet: Rough green snakes feed primarily on insects such as crickets, caterpillars and grasshoppers, though they will also eat snails, spiders and small frogs.
Lifespan: Rough green snakes typically are reported to live up to 15 years. Though most don't survive that long, unless they are living in captivity.
Solomon Island Skink (Corucia zebrata)
Range: The Solomon Islands skink is native to Solomon Islands archipelago, a group of islands in the south-west Pacific Ocean. Only found on the Solomon Islands, the skink is arboreal (tree dwelling) and spends all its time in the canopy. It is often found in the strangler fig tree, a rainforest species.
Description: The Solomon Islands skink has a long, slender body, strong, short legs, and a triangular shaped head with small round eyes. The skink has a strong crushing jaw but the teeth are small and used for eating plant material.
Diet: Solomon Islands skinks are herbivores, feeding on the leaves, flowers, fruit, and growing shoots of several different species of plants.
Lifespan: A well-cared for skink can live 25-30 years. Prehensile-tailed skinks are protected under Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). It is illegal to export them from the Solomon Islands.
Speckled Kingsnake (Lampropeltis holbrooki)
Range: The speckled kingsnake is found in the central and southern United States from southern Iowa to the Gulf of Mexico. Its range overlaps that of the desert kingsnake, and it is known to intergrade with that subspecies. The speckled kingsnake lives in a wide variety of habitats: prairies, brushy areas, forest edges, rocky, wooded hillsides, and along the edges of swamps or marshes. Commonly encountered on rocky, wooded hillsides or near farm buildings.
Description: A white or yellow spot in the center of most of the scales makes it look speckled. The belly is yellowish with some irregular or rectangular black markings. In young individuals, the light spots form crossbars along the back. Like the rest of our kingsnakes, this species vibrates its tail when alarmed. Sometimes referred to as the common kingsnake, the speckled kingsnake is a moderately large snake with smooth scales and a background color of black. Each scale has an irregular yellow marking that varies in size and shape giving the snake an overall speckled appearance.
Diet: The diet of the speckled kingsnake consists of mammals, birds, rodents, frogs, lizards, and other snakes. It kills by constriction.
Lifespan: Kingsnakes reach sexual maturity between 2 and 4 years of age. Their lifespan in the wild is unknown, though they can live up to 20 to 30 years in captivity.
Cuban Iguana (Cyclura nubila)
Range: The Cuban iguana is naturally distributed in rocky coastal areas on Cuba and throughout as many as 4,000 islets surrounding the Cuban mainland, including Isla de la Juventud off the southern coast, which has one of the most robust populations. At the Montgomery Zoo, our Cuban iguana lives in a special enclosure directly in between Stingray Bay and the Mann Wildlife Learning Museum.
Description: Cuban iguanas have a long, straight tail; short, powerful limbs; sharp claws; a large flap of skin called a dewlap hangs from the throat area and assists in temperature regulation. Their colors range from dark grays to light browns with some noticeable banding. The skin of male Cuban iguanas ranges in color from dark gray to brick red, whereas that of females is olive green with dark stripes or bands.
Diet: Cuban iguanas are omnivorous; they feed on fruits, flowers, leaves, insects, and snails. Young iguanas eat more insects and shift to 95% vegetation as they age.
Lifespan: Interestingly enough, the complex social expressions (head bobs, wobbles, etc.) have changed dramatically from their Cuban relatives during a little more than 50 years of isolation. This species, like all Cyclura, has a long life span, living to be 60 to 70 years old.