Reptiles are vertebrates that regulate body temperature externally, have dry, glandless skin covered with scales, breathe through lungs and lay large eggs that develop on land. Reptiles include turtles, snakes, and lizards. Most of our reptiles live in the Unseen New World exhibit, but we also have reptiles in Alligator Cove and Critter Encounters!

  • Alligator Snapping Turtle

    Southeastern U.S.

    Deep freshwater


    Up to 45 yrs (wild)

    Up to 175 lbs, 40 in.

    Fish, frogs, snakes, worms, clams

    Alligator snapping turtles are among the largest of the freshwater turtles. They can be distinguished from other snapping turtles by three large ridges along the back of their shell, as well as their large head and powerful jaws. Alligator snapping turtles will spend most of their day in the water and usually only nesting females will be seen on land. They can stay underwater for up to 50 minutes at a time and remain so still in the water that algae will often grow on their shells. Alligator snapping turtles have a small pink worm-like lure in their mouth. This lure attracts fish right into the mouth of the turtle where they get eaten by the turtle with a quick snap of their powerful jaws.

    You can see our alligator snapping turtle in the Unseen New World.

  • American Alligator

    North Carolina to Texas

    Slow moving bodies of freshwater

    Least Concern

    About 50 years

    Up to 1000 lbs, 12 ft for males

    Large vertebrates, invertebrates, birds, frogs

    The American Alligator was on the verge of extinction in the 1970’s. The alligator was placed on the Endangered Species list and has since made a remarkable recovery.

    An easy way to distinguish alligators from crocodiles is to look at their teeth. Alligators and crocodiles have a very long fourth tooth. When an alligator closes its mouth that tooth is not visible, when a crocodile closes its mouth that tooth is visible from its upper jaw. Alligators can have up to 80 teeth in their mouth at one time and have over 2000 pounds of bite strength. Alligators will become dormant when the weather gets too cold for them. They dig “gator holes” that can be 65 feet long which they use during periods of dormancy.

    You can see our alligators at Alligator Cove on Jungle Loop.

  • Dwarf Caiman

    From Venezuela to Brazil

    Freshwater rivers and streams

    Least Concern

    Up to 40 yrs

    Up to 15 lbs, 5 ft

    Fish, birds, reptiles, invertebrates, small mammals

    Dwarf caiman are the smallest species of crocodile. They like to live in flooded forests with clean and fast-flowing rivers in South America. They will be found alone or in pairs. Breeding can occur throughout the year depending on the habitat and the female will lay 10-25 eggs in a nest that was built. The sex of the eggs are determined by the temperature of the nest during the incubation period. The eggs hatch after a 90 day incubation and the young will stay with the mother for several weeks. Dwarf caiman are mainly nocturnal, spending the day in a burrow while going out at night to hunt. You can see our dwarf caiman in Unseen New World.

  • Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

    Southeastern U.S.

    Palmetto groves, pine forests, fields

    Least Concern

    Up to 25 yrs

    Up to 10 lbs, 6 ft

    Small mammals, birds

    The eastern diamondback is one of the largest snakes in the US. This venomous snake has a rattle on the tip of its tail which increases in size with each shed. The rattle is shaken rapidly to warn predators to stay away. When they are hunting they are completely silent. Rattlesnakes are the only snake that have this adaptation and two species, the timber rattlesnake and pygmy rattlesnake, are 2 of the 4 venomous snake species that can be found in Tennessee. Diamondbacks are solitary animals that are active during the early morning and evening. This snake is very beneficial to humans as its main prey consists of rats, mice, and rabbits which are often viewed as pests. Their population is at risk due to habitat loss and human misconceptions of rattlesnakes.

    You can see our eastern diamondback rattlesnake in Unseen New World.

  • Galapagos Tortoise

    Galapagos Islands

    Semi-arid lowlands and moist uplands


    Over 100 years

    Over 400 lbs, up to 4 ft

    Grasses, forbs, fruits, leaves, succulents

    The Galapagos Tortoise is the world's largest tortoise and can only be found in the Galapagos Islands west of South America. The tortoises will spend the cooler parts of the day low on the islands where it is dry and grassy, as the day warms up the tortoises will head to higher elevations where the vegetation is more lush. They usually travel the same path to these locations and will wear a path in the ground. Breeding season is January through August and the female will lay up to 10 eggs.

    You can find our Galapagos Tortoises in Critter Encounters.

  • Gila Monster

    Southwest U.S. and Mexico

    Dry, rocky foothills

    Near Threatened

    Up to 20 yrs

    Up to 4 lbs, 20 in

    Small vertebrates, eggs, small invertebrates

    The Gila monster is the largest lizard native to the United States and is closely related to the Mexican Beaded Lizard, both of which are venomous. Gila monsters spend the majority of their lives under ground. Their above ground activity happens mostly in the spring and includes mating and gathering their main food source. Each Gila monster has a range of about one square mile. Gila monsters have a mild toxin when they bite, it will be very painful but would not be fatal to humans. Unlike snakes who inject their venom, Gila monsters chew on their prey to get their venom into the open wound of their prey. You can see our Gila monster in Unseen New World.

  • Indigo Snake

    Florida, southeast Georgia

    Fields, pine/tropical forests, marshes


    Over 20 yrs

    Up to 11 lbs, 8.5 ft

    Snakes, turtles, frogs, mammals, birds, lizards

    The indigo snake is the longest snake native to the United States. The indigo snake is not venomous or a constrictor. It uses its muscular jaws to overpower prey. The snake used to have a much larger range including parts of Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. The number of indigo snakes has decreased due to habitat loss and fragmentation, collection for pet trade, and gassing of gopher tortoise burrows for the collection of rattlesnakes. Indigo snakes have large ranges of up to 3000 acres and are at the top of the food web in their habitats and have been seen eating venomous snakes like the diamondback rattlesnake. Indigo snake habitats have begun to be restored and snakes have been reintroduced into areas of Alabama.

    You can see our indigo snake in the Unseen New World.

  • Komodo Dragon

    Indonesian islands

    Open savannah areas


    Up to 30 years

    Up to 300 lbs, 7-9 ft

    Boar, deer, carrion

    Komodo dragons change drastically throughout their lives. When they hatch they are about 10-13 inches long and yellow, green, and black. By the time they reach about 10 years of age they will be 7-9 feet and can weigh almost 300 pounds and be a dull gray or brown. As juveniles the Komodo dragons will live in trees and roll in fecal matter to protect themselves from getting eaten by adults.

    You can see our Komodo dragons in Unseen New World.

  • Rhinoceros Iguana

    Island of Hispaniola

    Dry, rocky coastal & mainland forests


    Up to 20 yrs

    Up to 20 lbs, 4 ft

    Fruits and vegetation

    The rhinoceros iguana gets its name from the bumps on its snout which are most pronounced on male iguanas. Breeding will happen at 2 to 3 years of age. Males bob their heads and their spines along their back to attract females. Females will dig burrows to incubate the eggs, there is no parental care after the eggs hatch. Rhinoceros iguanas are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. They spend their nights in rock crevices, caves, or burrows they have dug. Rhinoceros iguanas are threatened by habitat destruction, invasive species, and illegal hunting. You can see our rhinoceros iguanas inside Unseen New World.

  • Sulcata Tortoise

    Southern edge of Sahara Desert

    Arid savannah & scrubland


    Over 50 yrs

    Up to 240 lbs, 30 in

    Grasses, flowers, weeds

    Sulcata tortoises are the second largest tortoise after Galapagos tortoises. These tortoises like to live in hot and dry areas of Africa and do not need permanent water sources. They get much of the water they need from eating succulent plants like cactus which store water in their leaves. Sulcatas are great burrowers which they dig during the dry season to avoid dehydration. The skin of sulcatas is resistant to water loss but can absorb water when needed. They will also smear saliva on their arms to cool down if they get too hot. Sulcatas breed between June and March when they will lay 15-30 eggs which hatch after an 8 month incubation period. Sulcata populations have been decreasing due to human population expansion, desertification, and collection for the pet trade.