Reptiles of Peru | Peru Unbound

Reptiles of Peru

Peru has around 300 species of reptiles of which around 100 are endemic. Peru's reptile fauna includes spectacular species like giant anacondas and caimans, as well as many other snakes, lizards and turtles. Raft through the Apurimac Canyon in hopes of catching a glimpse of some of Peru's iconic reptiles on our Peru Tour.

SOUTH AMERICAN RIVER TURTLE

SOUTH AMERICAN RIVER TURTLE 

This turtle is primarily aquatic and only females leave the water to nest during the dry season. This massive species isn’t the largest in the world, but it ranks near the top. Yellow markings are present on the head and a pair of yellow spots occur on the interparietal scutes. Males tend to have thicker tails and rounder heads compared to the females.

This species feeds on a variety of fruits, leaves and even freshwater sponges. During the wet season this turtle frequents areas of flooded forest to feed on various fruits that fall from trees.

The females congregate on a limited number of nesting beaches during the dry season. These gatherings are one of the greatest natural shows in South America. All four limbs are used to excavate a nest. The nests can be a meter in diameter and about 60 centimeters in depth. Anywhere from 50-86 eggs can be deposited depending on the age of the female. They typically hatch after 50 days. After hatching, the hatchlings begin diffing their way out of the nest. This process can take a few days, but is normally completed during the night. After hatchlings emerge they immediately head for the water. 

LESSER TOAD-HEADED TURTLE 

LESSER TOAD-HEADED TURTLE 

This turtle is found in closed canopy forests in streams, rivers, and small ponds. It has a small reddish brown to gray head with soft, granular skin.

The lesser toad-headed turtle is a nocturnal creature that inhabits muddy streams and isolated pools of closed canopy forest. During dry spells, it can experience periods of inactivity known as estivation.

This turtles feeds heavily on anuran leaves in rain forest pools. In captivity it has been known to consume fish, rodents, invertebrates, dog food, and vegetation.

Little it know about courtship for this species. Eggs are deposited in a variety of sites, all close to water. The eggs are hard-shelled, elliptical, and white or rose colored.

CORAL/HARLEQUIN SNAKES 

CORAL/HARLEQUIN SNAKES 

Peru has a diverse population of snake, some venomous and some harmless. Among the most commonly recognized is the coral snake.

Coral snakes are usually red with black bands bordered by white or yellow intervals. The eyes are very small. Coral snakes are generally not very aggressive snakes, but stepping on one inadvertently would be a dangerous mistake. The venom of all coral snakes is strongly neurotoxic. It affects the nervous system and can cause respiratory paralysis and suffocation.

WOODLIZARD 

WOODLIZARD 

Peru has an extremely diverse population of lizards. Recently three new species were found in the cloud forest of Peru. The woodlizard is colorful, spiky, and only a few inches long. It is often described as a miniature dragon because of its probing eyes, richly patterned skin and rows of spikelike scales.

Woodlizards grow to between 3-6 inches long which makes them one of the largest lizards in the Amazon rainforest. One of the new woodlizards was discovered in the upper basin of the Huallaga River and 4,921 ft elevation in northern Peru. It has a greenish-black back with olive flecks and a conspicuous white patch on its throat. Huge scales trail down its spine.

FLAT-HEADED TURTLE (OR WESTERN TWIST-NECKED TURTLE)

FLAT-HEADED TURTLE (OR WESTERN TWIST-NECKED TURTLE)

The flat-headed turtle, or the western twist-necked turtle, is a small turtle with a flat, yellow-orange head. The carapace is brown with some yellow pigmenting.

These turtles can be found in marshes, creeks and ponds within rainforest situations. Little is known about its diet in the rainforest, but in captivity this turtle has accepted a variety of invertebrates, fish, and occasionally vegetation.

One egg is deposited in a shallow groove in the ground, normally under rotten leaves. Hatchlings emerge after an incubation period of around 150 days.

BIG-HEADED RIVER TURTLE 

BIG-HEADED RIVER TURTLE 

This turtle is found in deep pools in creeks and lakes. The head is normally gray to olive and the jaws are tan. Little information is available about the natural diet of this species. It likely feeds on fruits, various seeds, aquatic plant and fish.

This turtle prefers nesting anywhere on dry land except for sandy beaches. It will nest on beaches if the sand is mixed with leaf litter. A clutch will produce between 7-25 eggs. Hatchlings emerge from the eggs after about 100 days of incubation.

SPECTACLED CAIMAN 

SPECTACLED CAIMAN 

The spectacled caiman lives in a range of lowland wetland and riverine habitat types. It can tolerate salt water as well as fresh. It can get up to over 6 ft long and the largest reported size for the species was 128 lbs.

Caimans eat insects, crustaceans, mollusks, fish and water snails. Larger caiman are capable of taking on mammals like wild pigs. Caiman stop feeding when conditions dry out.

A female caiman can lay up to 40 eggs. Most caiman will nest during the wet season. Temperature is important to the developing eggs, so females build their nests in a way that insulates them from extreme temperature changes. The nests are made of vegetation and as the vegetation decays, the nests produce heat which can keep the eggs warmer than if they were insulated by mud alone. Temperature not only incubates the eggs, but also determines the sex of the developing caimans. If the temperature inside the nest is 31°C or lower, the caimans become male. However, when the temperature is about 32°C or higher, they become female.