Reptiles

Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines (turtles); Crocodylia (crocodiles and alligators);
Squamata (lizards and snakes); and Rhyncocephalia (tuataras)
Suborder: Various
Family: Various

Reptiles are air-breathing vertebrates (backbone or spinal column) covered in special skin made up of scales, bony plates, or a combination of both. They include crocodiles, snakes, lizards, turtles, and tortoises. All regularly shed the outer layer of their skin. In the Minnesota Freshwater ways, you are most likely to find turtles.
Turtles are cold-blooded, which means their metabolism depends on the temperature of their environment. Without fur or feathers for insulation, they cannot stay warm on a cold day, and without sweat glands (like humans) or the ability to pant (like a dog), they cannot cool off on a hot day. Instead, they move into the sun or into the shade as needed.
During cooler parts of the year, most freshwater turtles bury themselves in the mud at the bottom of deep ponds or lakes to survive the winter. While turtles require oxygen to live, they can extract small amounts directly from the water via their throat or cloaca. Additionally, due to the cold temperatures and their low metabolic rate, their oxygen demands are far lower during hibernation than when the turtles are active. Because freshwater reaches its greatest density at 39 degrees Fahrenheit, the bottom layer of water in sufficiently deep ponds will always be about this temperature -- cool enough to allow hibernation, but not cold enough to freeze. Additionally, turtles dissolve small amounts of calcium from their shells into their bloodstream to keep their hearts beating properly and buffer the production of lactic acid.

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Life Cycle

Most reptiles lay eggs in a simple nest and leave. Female turtles dig a hold in the sand or mud and lay up to 100 eggs then bury them. Mother turtles do not remain near their eggs to protect them. The eggs hatch usually in about 2-3 months. For most turtles and all species of crocodilians, the soil temperature determines how many hatchlings will be male or female. Young turtles can glide, walk, and swim within hours of birth. Reptiles grow slowly until they reach adult size and sexual maturity.
Turtles grow at a very slow rate, but time does not take much of a toll on their bodies. The organs of an old turtle are almost identical to that of a young turtle. One of the most ancient creatures on earth, the turtle is also one of the longest-lived, with the largest species living the longest. Freshwater turtles can live between 30-50 years.

Some reptiles, like the corn snake, have fairly short life spans of 6 to 8 years. Others, like the alligator, live 35 to 50 years. The desert tortoise can live to be 80 years or more!

Source: National Geographic
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secondary consumer

Energy Web

Reptiles play many roles in the ecosystem because of the large variety of species. Alligators, crocodiles, some snakes, and a few lizards are apex predators at the top of the food chain. Other reptiles, like lizards and turtles, are secondary or tertiary consumers. The lower the reptile is on the food chain, the more likely they are to be an omnivore or a herbivore.

Reptiles impose an important check on insect and rodent populations. Some of the most venomous snakes in the world such as the Indian cobra actually prevent the spread of disease-carrying rodents, even in urban centers, so their usefulness often outweighs their danger. However, far less dangerous reptiles also act to control pest populations, like turtles.

Reptiles impose an important check on insect and rodent populations. Some of the most venomous snakes in the world such as the Indian cobra actually prevent the spread of disease-carrying rodents, even in urban centers, so their usefulness often outweighs their danger. However, far less dangerous reptiles also act to control pest populations.

Source: Sciencing

Habitat

Reptiles are found all over the world in a wide variety of habitats. Most turtles species are aquatic, living in bodies of water ranging from small ponds and bogs to large lakes and rivers. A few are strictly terrestrial (tortoises), and others divide their time between land and water.
Although turtles as a group are broadly distributed, each species has a preferred habitat and is seldom found elsewhere. For example, both the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) and the Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina) live in the southern United States and are equally terrestrial, but they are not usually found together, as the box turtle prefers moist forest while the gopher tortoise prefers open woodlands on sand ridges.
The Midland Smooth Softshell turtle inhabits large rivers and streams where sand or mud is abundant. This species is well equipped for an aquatic life, with a flat, round, smooth upper shell covered with skin; webbed toes; and a long, tubular snout that functions like a snorkel.
Blanding's Turtles are semi-aquatic and live in shallow lakes, ponds, and wetlands. Without their Minnesota Freshwater ways, turtles and all reptiles would be in grave danger.

Blandings Turtle basking on a log in a pristine stream of northern Illinois.
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Are your species' needs being met?

You should have a pretty good idea of what your species needs in its environment to be healthy and vibrant. Do you know if your watershed is healthy for your species?