Reptiles

Class Reptilia

The class Reptilia is comprised of the snakes, turtles, crocodiles, and lizards.  Reptiles have dry scales and most will lay eggs on land.  They are also ectothermic, meaning their body temperature is regulated by its environment. It is important to note that while their body temperature is dependent on the environment, reptiles can control it in some ways.  For instance, you will often see reptiles sunning themselves, but you may also see them lying in the shade, allowing them to exert some control over internal body temperature.

While you may see some different reptiles around the marsh upland border, we decided to focus solely on the two primary reptiles that you will see while you are exploring the lower salt marsh and tidal creeks.  These reptiles are the American alligator and the diamondback terrapin, both charismatic, well known species.  The alligator is not often seen in saltwater, but that does not mean that you never will.  They are primarily found in freshwater environments but will move through saltwater tidal creeks.

The diamondback terrapin is readily seen in the salt marsh, although usually one will only see its head poking out of the water before it quickly dives back down.  It is unique in that it is the only pond/marsh turtle that can survive in a high salinity environment without access to a freshwater source.  Females will only leave the tidal creeks when it is time to lay her eggs.  If you see a diamondback terrapin on the road or in a parking lot, it is recommended you move it to safety, but keep it facing the same direction it was originally heading.

Diamondback terrapin in a tidal creek

Diamondback terrapin in a tidal creek

American alligator C

Alligator mississippiensis

Characteristics:
Rounded snout with black and yellow/white body color; may only see tip of snout and eyes above water line

Characteristics:
Rounded snout with black and yellow/white body color; may only see tip of snout and eyes above water line
Range:
NC to FL and the Gulf of Mexico
Size:
10-14ft (3-4m) in length
Habitat:
Coastal wetlands, primarily freshwater with suitable nesting and feeding grounds
Fun Fact:
Bellow and slap their heads on water to communicate
Responsive image
T

Diamondback terrapin C

Malaclemys terrapin

Characteristics:
Diamond shaped pattern on carapace; black, gray, brown, or spotted body; males much smaller than females

Characteristics:
Diamond shaped pattern on carapace; black, gray, brown, or spotted body; males much smaller than females
Range:
Cape Cod to FL and the Gulf of Mexico
Size:
Females reach 6-7in (17cm) in length; males reach 4-5in (11cm) in length
Habitat:
Estuaries, tidal creeks, can survive in high salinity
Fun Fact:
Hibernate in the mud in winter and mate in the spring
Responsive image
R
Responsive image
Responsive image
Responsive image
Responsive image
Responsive image
Responsive image
Responsive image