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The class Reptilia is divided into four orders: Turtles, Lizards and Snakes, Crocodiles, and the Tuatara. The living reptiles are comprised of Turtles (order Chelonia) about 250 species; the Lizards and Snakes (order Squamata) about 5700 species; the Crocodilians (order Crocodylia), 23 species; and the Tuatara (order Rhynchocephalia) only one species.

Reptiles are cold blooded vertebrate animals. Many characteristics define Reptiles, some of which are dry scaled skin, internal fertilization, and a three to four chambered heart. They inhabit many environments. But most, channeled by cold bloodedness, are confined to warmer habitats. Reptiles may be aquatic, semi-aquatic or terrestrial, as well as arboreal.

Reptiles range in size considerably. The longest reptile is the reticulated python, reaching 33 feet in length. The smallest Reptile is possibly the dwarf gecko that reaches only about 1.3 inches in length.

The Reptilian skull ranges from the reduced, loosely joined, or kinetic skull of snakes to the large, solid skull of the crocodiles. One characteristic identifying a reptile skull is a single ball-and-socket connection (condyle) at the head-neck joint instead of two, as in mammals, and an incomplete or complete partition (the secondary palate) along the roof of the mouth, separating the food and air passageways so that breathing can continue while the food is being chewed.

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ORDERS in the Class Reptilia

Crocodylia ( Crocodiles and Alligators )

The order Crocodylia consists of 23 species of crocodiles, alligators, caimans and the gavials. All members of this order are aquatic but have the ability to bask, nest and feed on land. Most crocodilians inhabit tropical or sub-tropical regions of the world. Crocodiles first appeared nearly 160 million years ago and have changed very little since.

Rhynchocephalia ( Tuatara )

The order Rhynchocephalia contains only two living species, both commonly known as the tuatara. Externally, this ancient reptile resembles a lizard, but internally is very unique.Tuataras only live on the islands of New Zealand. Although they might superficially resemble lizards, tuataras are not in any lizard family.

Squamata ( Snakes and Lizards )

There are over 65 00 species of snakes and lizards found in the order Squmata. These reptiles are found in a variety of habitats, but prefer temperate to tropical climates. Lizards belong to the sub-order Lacertilia while snakes are in the sub-order Serpentes.

Testudines ( Turtles and Tortoises )

he order Testudines includes all 250+ species of turtles. Turtles can be divided into several catergories based on where they dwell. Terrestrial turtle species are commonly referred to as tortoises while fresh water aquatic turtles are called terrapins. Those chelonia living in salt water oceans are simply called sea turtles. Turtles can be found living on every continent with the exception on Antarctica.