The reptiles of Costa Rica are full of surprises. Power and beauty are more harmonious in few species than in the iridescent coils of the Boa Constrictor; speed and style in the evasive maneuvers of the Basilisk; or drive and grace in the sweeping acrobatics of the Green Turtle.
Costa Rica is full of reptiles. With representatives at nearly every altitude and in most regions, the recorded 221 species in this country have spread themselves across every habitat. Reptiles are more resilient to losing water than amphibians because they have dry, scaly skin. So unlike amphibians which avoid direct sun, reptiles use sunlight and shadow alternately to adjust their body temperature. Diurnal reptiles, like the Green Spiny Lizard or the Black Ctenosaur, are easier to spot during the day because they spend time basking in the sun to soak up energy.
Not all reptiles are so bold, and many are shy and jumpy. Some reptiles are almost easier to locate by sound, such as a Whip-tailed Lizard crashing through the underbrush or a Basilisk splashing noisily over the water. Of course, some reptiles have incredible camouflage and discrete behavior, like the Vine Snake, and visitors can pass by this harmless beauty and never take notice.
It is best to be aware of reptiles, though, because many are venomous, several are dangerous, and a few are aggressive, such as the Crocodile and Fer-de- lance. Other predators, such as the big black Zopilota, might look intimidating at first, but are entirely harmless towards humans. It is always better to take caution than risks when dealing with reptiles in Costa Rica, and their qualities can be admired from a distance. Once spotted, they inspire appreciation for the agility and aptitude that has made many of these creatures legendary.