Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.

Florida Nature: Florida Reptiles & Amphibians
Florida has an abundance of wildlife, including a wide variety of reptiles and amphibians which play an interesting and vital role in Florida's complex ecology. Since both reptiles and amphibians have backbones, they are both vertebrates. Both are cold blooded, in general they rev up their metabolism and are more active when the weather is warm. Amphibians include frogs, toads and salamanders. Amphibians usually lay their eggs in water, and when the larvae hatch, they resemble small fish (the tadpole stage). Later they change and most species acquire lungs and legs, leaving the water. Reptiles include alligators, crocodiles, turtles, lizards and snakes. Although some reptiles spend their lives in and around water, their eggs are not laid in the water but on land. When the young hatch from the eggs (or are born alive as some snakes and lizards), they are instantly air breathers. The young look like miniatures of the adults. The skin of reptiles is dry and made up of tough plates called scales.

Non-Venomous Snakes- Florida has a rich diversity of snakes. Florida has 37 species of non-venomous snakes! Three species of non-venomous snakes found in Florida are found nowhere else in the world: the Short-Tailed Snake, Florida Crowned Snake, and the Rim Rock Crowned Snake. Florida's non-venomous snakes come in a variety of sizes and colors and are found in every conceivable habitat. Some of Florida's snakes are now endangered or threatened.

Only six of Florida's 44 snake species are venomous, the Eastern Coral Snake, the Southern Copperhead, the Cottonmouth, the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, the Timber Rattlesnake, and the Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake

It can be difficult for inexperienced people to tell the difference between an American crocodile and the other native crocodilian, the more common American alligator. In terms of physical differences the easiest way to tell the difference between the two is that a crocodile has a very long, narrow, V-shaped snout, while the alligator's snout is wider and U-shaped. Because of the wide snout of the alligator it packs more crushing power to eat prey like turtles that constitute part of its diet. The narrow crocodile snout, although still very powerful, is not really suited for prey like turtles but is very versatile for fish and mammals. The following are some of the major differences between the two:
Crocodile Alligator
Grayish green color Black in color
Fourth tooth on lower jaw exposed when mouth is closed Only upper teeth exposed when mouth is closed
Narrow tapered snout Broad rounded snout
Young are light with dark stripes Young are dark with yellow stripes

Alligators have inhabited Florida’s marshes, swamps, rivers and lakes for many centuries, and are found in all 67 counties. In recent years, Florida has experienced tremendous human population growth. Many residents seek waterfront homes, and increasingly participate in water-related activities. This can result in more frequent alligator-human interactions, and a greater potential for conflict.

American Crocodiles are primarily are found in south Florida living in brackish and saltwater habitats such as ponds, coves and creeks of mangrove swamps. Recently crocodiles have moved northward within their range and even inland into freshwater areas of southeast Florida. The American crocodile is an endangered species success story. Since 1975 their numbers have increased from less than 300 to more than 1,500 adults.

Turtles are ancient shelled reptiles that have existed for 220 million years. In Florida a turtle lives in and around fresh water, a terrapin lives in and around salt and brackish water but not in the open ocean and a tortoise is mainly a land dwelling creature. The large sea turtles live at sea. The word cooter refers to certain hard-shelled freshwater turtles. Florida has more species of turtles than other states, such as sliders and soft shelled turtles.  Of the 26 types of turtle species found in Florida, the vast majority are freshwater turtle species. Besides freshwater turtles, Florida is home to the gopher tortoise, box turtles, and five sea turtle species.

Florida Toads and Frogs are hard to separate. For the most part scientists do no make a distinction between toads and frogs because the line is too blurry. How do you tell the difference between a toad and a frog? Both are anurans, or tailless amphibians. Customarily, toads are those anurans that have dry, warty skin. They hop and stay on the ground. Frogs usually have moist skin. They leap instead of hop and like the tree frog, many are able to climb up on vegetation.

Lizard is a catch all term that refers to a variety of small creatures, most of which have four legs, scaly skin, and long tails. it includes anoles, skinks and geckos, glass lizards, and the bizarre worm lizard. Unlike snakes, lizards have eyes that blink, tongues that are not forked, and ear openings for hearing sounds. No Florida lizards are poisonous.

Salamander is a general term for an entire group of creatures, including newts, sirens, and amphiumas and is also the specific name of certain animals. Salamanders are amphibians that have long tails and moist skin. With the exception of sirens and amphiumas, salamanders look basically like scaleless lizards.
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