5 Coolest Reptiles

Kasey’s Korner: Five Cool Reptiles

Our Animal Care Manager Kasey selected five reptiles she thinks are the coolest! 

Nano Chameleon


Q: Why is the Nano Chameleon cool?

Kasey: “They are the world’s smallest reptile! The males measure 22mm in total length and the females measure up to 29mm, that is just barely over one inch.” 

Q: Any other unique things?

Kasey:“They are such a new species. They were discovered in 2012 and classified in 2021.”

Q: What else makes them different?

Kasey: “Unlike most other chameleons, the ones in the Brookesiinae sub family including the Nano Chameleon are not arboreal and are typically found in lower levels of shrubs or in leaf litter.”

Q: Where do they come from?

Kasey: “They come from the lowland rainforests in Northern Madagascar.”

Marine Iguana

Q: Why is the Marine Iguana cool?

Kasey: “They have amazing evolutionary adaptations. Large males will dive to forage for algae and seaweed holding their breath for 15-30 minutes at a time.

Q: Any other unique things?

Kasey: “They also have the ability to shrink. During some extreme climate events, the ocean water temperature will spike, and algae growth will decrease. With less food available the Marine Iguana can shrink its body up to 20%, even their bones can shrink up to 10%. Once the food supply regulates, they will quickly restore to their original size.”

Q: What else makes them different? 

Kasey:“Another cool adaptation they have is their ability to get rid of excess salt. We know that drinking salt water is bad for you and can kill you. Most marine mammals have specialized kidneys to help filter out the bad stuff and reabsorb the good stuff. Marine birds and reptiles have a salt gland in their skulls that extracts excess sodium from the blood stream and then excretes the concentrated solution. These guys essentially sneeze it out of their nostrils!”

Q: Where do they live?     

Kasey: “Marine Iguana populations are spread throughout the Galápagos Islands. This includes the 11-13 subspecies of Marine Iguanas.”

Mary River Turtle

Q: Why is the Mary River Turtle cool?

Kasey: “They’re awesome because of their hair-dos! Sometimes they are referred to as the Green Haired Turtle based on the long strands of algae that can grow on their heads and the carapace (top part of its shell).”

Q: Any other unique things?

Kasey:“The Mary River Turtle and some other types of turtles use bimodal (2 modes) respiration. This means that when they are above the surface, they use their lungs to breathe. While they are submerged, they use gill-like structures in their tails to stay submerged. They are sometimes call ‘bum breathers’, but technically the scientific term is cloacal ventilators, meaning they can literally breathe oxygen out of their anuses.”

Q: What makes them different from other species?  

Kasey: “In my opinion the most unique fact about these guys is that they are the only species in their genus and diverged from all other living species around 40 million years ago!”

Q: Where do they live?

Kasey: “They live in the Mary River in South East, Queensland, Australia.”

Paradise Tree Snake


Q: Why is the Paradise Tree Snake cool?

Kasey:“They are so cool because of their ability to fly! They are actually gliding and can cover a horizontal distance of 10 meters. They do this by slithering at the end of a tree branch and hanging most of their body off, bending themselves into a ‘J’ shape. They hurl themselves from the branch while flattening out their ribcage. Their shape in flight has been described as a pseudo concave wing.

Q: Any other unique things?

Kasey:  “They are better gliders than flying squirrels even though they lack limbs and a patagium (flap of skin between the fore-limbs and hind-limbs). The lack of limbs makes them more aerodynamic.”

Q: What else makes them different?

Kasey: “They use the mechanism of ballistics to determine their destination. Researchers from Virginia published an article in Bioinspiration & Biomimetics analyzing their body position to determine the characteristics of snake gliding during the transition to equilibrium, quantifying changes in velocity, acceleration, and body orientation in the late phase of a glide sequence.”

Q: Where do they come from?

Kasey: “They are from South East Asia, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and parts of China and India.”

Phantastic Leaf-tailed Gecko

Q: Why is the Phantastic Leaf-tailed Gecko cool?

Kasey:“They are cool because they have amazing camouflage. Their coloring is shades of red, tan, brown and even purple and they literally look like they are dead leaves. This specific species of Leaf-tailed Gecko belongs to the dead leaf mimickers. Other species of their genus have adapted to mimic lichen, moss, bark, and even bamboo.”

Q: Any other unique things?

Kasey:“They have prominent ridges over their eyes and a flat leaf-shaped tail. Some males can have notches in their tails to look like damage to a leaf. During stressful events they can change their coloration like a chameleon.”

Q: What else makes them different?

Kasey:“Phants, like other Geckos lack eyelids. They use their tongues to clear away dirt and dust from their eyes. They also have incredible night vision, supposably seeing 350x better than humans and even able to see colors in pitch black!”

Q: Where do they come from?

Kasey:“They are endemic to the central and northeastern coastal rainforests of Madagascar.”