How Do Reptiles Protect Themselves?

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There are more than 6,500 species of reptiles living today.

Reptiles are a diverse group of animals that are found in every habitat and environment except for extreme cold. Because these many habitats have a variety of dangers and concerns, reptiles have evolved into a number of characteristics that protect them in their own unique way.

The Constrictors

The constrictor (boas and pythons) snakes protect themselves with massive, muscular bodies that they coil around attackers and prey. Once a constrictor has clasped itself around its opponent, it squeezes just enough to prevent the victim from breathing. After the victim suffocates, the snake then eats it. The teeth of a constrictor are not used to protect it, but instead to latch onto a victim to begin coiling around it.

The Cobra

The cobra protects himself with fangs that inject venom. The venom neurotoxin causes paralysis, and it kills if not quickly treated. When endangered, a cobra rises up to increase its size and spreads its hood. This makes the cobra appear larger and more frightening to predators like the mongoose.



Crocodilians (crocodiles and alligators) have powerful senses that they can use to hunt and protect themselves. They have exceptional hearing that helps to warn them. They also have their eyes on the top of their heads, so they can stay submerged in water but still watch for danger above the surface. Their skin coloring allows them to stay camouflaged in water environments.

Tortoises and Turtles

Tortoises and turtles have soft bodies that need lots of protection. They have strong, lightweight shells that are built out of bony honeycomb structures with air pockets so that the turtle or tortoise can carry the shell. Many tortoises and turtles have bony edges to their mouths that allow them to snap at potential attackers.



Chameleons have some of the best adaptations for protection in the animal world. They have two eyes on the top of their heads that move independently of each other, allowing the chameleon to look in two different directions at once. Chameleons are also able to "change their colors" for camouflage, as well as for communication.