Written by Jade Walton, Transforming Lives Trainee
The 21st October marks Reptile Awareness Day, and what better way to celebrate than to learn some interesting facts about our six native reptile species!
In the United Kingdom we have six native reptiles, three snakes and three lizards.
Our snakes are:
Our lizards are:
Each of these reptiles have interesting facts about them that easily set them aside from their other reptile counterparts.
Firstly, lets look to our snakes. Adders are our only venomous species, though not particularly dangerous to most humans, it is best to keep your dog on a lead when walking in areas inhabited by adders. Adders are surprisingly small, usually measuring between 60cm and 80cm when fully grown. Females birth live young that are less than 20cm long.
Next, we come to the smooth snake. Just like their adder relatives, smooth snakes are quite short in length, usually growing to around 60-70cm. These are the rarest of our UK reptile species, only to be found in specific heathland sites. Smooth snakes are also the only snake in the UK to constrict their prey.
Our final snake is the grass snake. Easily the UK’s longest snake growing to around 150cm, they are also the only native snake to lay eggs rather than birth live young. This is a contributing factor as to why they are not found in Scotland as they need warm enough temperatures through the summer months for their eggs to incubate.
Our other three reptile species are types of lizard. Sand lizards are another rare UK reptile as their habitats are greatly limited to certain sandy heathlands. The sand lizard is our only lizard in the UK to lay eggs, which they bury under sand in sunny areas to allow for them to incubate. Like our other lizards, they can drop their tails as a defence mechanism against predators.
Common lizards are widespread throughout the UK, though their numbers are thought to be declining due to habitat loss. They are fairly often mistaken for newts as they are quite similar in appearance, the best way to tell the difference is to see the scaly skin of the lizard versus the smooth skin of the newt, they also move a lot faster.
Our final, and perhaps most confusing reptile is the slow-worm. Many could mistake a slow worm for a snake, given they have no legs, but they are, in fact, a lizard. They are distinguished from snakes by their ability to blink and drop their tails when threatened.