What Kind of Reptile Lives in the Philippines?

By Ben Team

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The Philippines is home to incredible biodiversity. The nation's numerous islands teem with animals -- particularly reptiles. The Philippines hosts the world’s longest snake and the longest venomous snake, one of the most endangered turtles and the second largest lizard species. The Philippines' rugged terrain continues to thwart efforts to amass a comprehensive checklist of species: One lizard species eluded science until 2001, so others are possibly undiscovered, too.

Giants and Kings

Snakes including pythons, cobras, pit vipers, sea snakes and others inhabit the Philippines. Most species grow no longer than 3 feet, but the nation's reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus) are the world’s longest snakes. Large specimens exceed 20 feet. Additionally, the world’s largest venomous snakes -- king cobras (Ophiophagus hannah) -- also inhabit the Philippines. Feeding almost exclusively on snakes, king cobras reach up to 18 feet in length, though most are much smaller. Several pit vipers are native to the Philippines, including the beautiful Wagler's vipers (Tropidolaemus wagleri), which are venomous, nocturnal predators of rodents, lizards and frogs.

Cryptic Dragons

Philippine sailfin lizards (Hydrosaurus pustulatus) are some of the most visually impressive lizards in the country. Adorned with dorsal and caudal crests, these lizards frequent branches overhanging rivers and streams; if a predator approaches, they will dive into the water and swim to safety. Five large monitor lizard species inhabit the Philippines; while most consume animal-based diets, Gray’s monitors (Varanus olivaceus) and Panay monitors (Varanus mabitang) primarily subsist on waxy fruits. Panay monitors reach only about 5 feet. Herpetologists discovered the Panay monitor only in 2001, though locals had known of its existence for centuries. Water monitors (Varanus salvator) are the second largest lizard species in the world. Most adult water monitors average 4 or 5 feet in length, unconfirmed reports mention specimens approaching 10 feet. The Philippines is home to a variety of smaller lizards, including numerous skinks and geckos.

Critically Endangered Chelonians

Eleven turtle species are native to the Philippines, including six that live on the land or in freshwater and five that inhabit the ocean. Philippine pond turtles (Sienbenrockiella leytensis), endemic to the country, are critically endangered, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Herpetologists know very little about the biology, natural history or habitat requirements of the rare species. Of the five sea turtles that feed in Philippine waters, only three -- green (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) deposit eggs on the country’s beaches.

A Couple of Crocodilians

Two species of crocodiles call the Philippines home: Philippine (Crocodylus mindorensis) and estuarine crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus). Philippine crocodiles are relatively small by crocodilian standards, seldom exceeding 9 feet in length. Denizens of freshwater, Philippine crocodiles primarily prey on aquatic invertebrates and small vertebrates, such as fish, turtles and frogs. By contrast, estuarine crocodiles are comfortable in saltwater and are the largest extant reptiles: Large specimens exceed 17 feet in length and approach 1 ton in weight.

Dinosaurs of the Philippines

While they are substantially different from the cold-blooded lizards, turtles, snakes and crocodiles, birds -- who descend from a group of dinosaurs -- are members of the reptile family tree. The Philippines is home to nearly 600 different birds, and 200 of them are endemic. Noteworthy among the many species are red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus), which are the wild ancestors of domestic chickens. Several species of brightly colored bee-eaters (Meropidae) inhabit the Philippines and spend their days chasing bees and wasps. The Philippines is home to the world’s largest eagles, Philippine eagles (Pithecophaga jefferyi), which have wingspans of more than 6 feet. Among the most endangered eagles in the world, these large birds hunt animals as large as monkeys, which earns them the alternative name "monkey-eating eagles."

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