What Do Animals Eat?

What Do Reptiles Eat?

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Reptiles are a very diverse group of vertebrates, so you’ll see that the diet of each sub-group and each species varies quite a bit. Most reptiles are carnivorous, feeding on small creatures like invertebrates, small mammals and even small reptiles. A minority are herbivores and these animals eat plants, like grasses, shrubs, fruits, algae and kelp. It is noted, though, that certain trends exist within each reptilian sub-group like the crocodilians, squamates, tuataras and the turtles. We’ll look more closely at each sub-group.

Galapagos land iguanaGalapagos Island land iguana. Photo taken by Jimrules42.

Turtles

Adult turtles feed primarily on leaves, shrubs, grass and fruit, so they are herbivores in the main. Some turtles will eat caterpillars and so on that get caught up in the plant matter that makes up most of their diets. Younger freshwater terrapins eat invertebrate larvae, while some young sea turtles eat small shellfish and jellyfish. Land-dwelling tortoises are plant eaters and for those living in deserts will eat cactus. Other species eat mainly algae and sea grass.

Nile crocodile width=Nile crocodile swallowing a big tilapia fish. Pic by Bernard Dupont.

Crocodilians

Crocodilians are semi aquatic animals, including alligators, caiman, crocodiles and gharials. These animals are all carnivorous. They prey on small vertebrates like small mammals, fish and birds. They will also eat the carcasses of recently dead animals. The gharials have very slender, long snouts, which are ideal for grabbing underwater prey and these reptiles feed mainly on fish.

A squamate’s diet

Squamates are the biggest reptile subgroup, including amphisbaenians, snakes and lizards. Most members of this group are carnivores, eating small animals.

Three komodo dragons feeding on a banded pig3 komodo dragons feeding on a banded pig. © Achmad Ariefiandy.

Lizards

Lizards are mainly predatory, eating small land-dwelling invertebrates and insects. The larger members of this clan eat small vertebrates like mammals, birds and other lizards. The largest lizard, the Komodo dragon, is a predator and a scavenger, feeding on large animals that it either kills itself or on carcasses that it happens upon. Komodo dragons have been observed eating water buffalo. A small gang of dragons bite at the buffalo, which develops a serious infection due to the bites (dragons don’t floss). The gang stalks the hapless water buffalo until it weakens, which can take two or three weeks, and feast on it as it dies.

Some lizards are herbivores

Some larger lizards are herbivores, though. The marine iguana of the Galapagos Islands lives on kelp and algae; in fact many iguana eat plants.

African rock python constricting an adult female domestic goatAfrican rock python constricting adult female domestic goat that is probably pregnant. Photo by Materialscientist.

Snakes

All snakes are carnivorous, eating a huge range of prey animals, including frogs, lizards, birds, bird eggs and invertebrates. Snakes have to swallow their prey whole, as they can’t tear their food apart. An example is the anaconda, which prey mostly on fish. Other types of snakes use venom to kill their prey such as sea snakes, rattlesnakes and cobras. These are venomous snakes and they usually go after small mammals.

Amphisbaenians

The amphisbaenians, or worm lizards, are squamates that live mainly in underground burrows. They are also predatory and they have a strong, crushing bite that they use to subdue and kill their prey, which comprises mainly small vertebrates, worms and arthropods.

Tuatara eating a fairy prion, a small seabirdTuatara eating a fairy prion, a small seabird . © Paddy Ryan.

How about tuataras?

The tuataras are a small group of rare reptiles that live on a small group of islands off New Zealand. They eat small invertebrates like crickets, spiders and beetles. They will also eat frogs, the chicks of seabirds, their eggs and also lizards.

Summary

So, most reptiles are predatory. Smaller reptiles need to eat smaller animals like invertebrates, small mammals and small reptiles, even insects. Some reptiles are herbivorous, like sea and land turtles and marine iguanas.

Diets of other species of reptiles

  1. Anoles
  2. Bearded Dragons
  3. Chameleons
  4. Garter Snakes
  5. Geckos
  6. Skinks

Continue reading: Reptile food chain.