REPTILES
        Reptiles were the world's first truly terrestrial vertebrates. All reptiles have scaly skin that can withstand dessication and lay eggs with hard shells, therefore they are not tied to the water like their relatives, the amphibians. Since they can live on land, they also have an expanded lung system. Reptiles include turtles, crocodilians, lizards, snakes and tuatara (found only in New Zealand).

COMMON SNAPPING TURTLE
Chelydra serentina serpentina

    Some folks call it the "thunder turtle". The legend goes that if a snapping turtle bites you, it wouldn’t let go until it hears thunder.  There's a common sense reason for this legend- snapping turtles bite hard.         
        Turtles have been around since the time of the dinosaurs, more than 200 million years, and snapping turtles are among the most primitive of all living turtle species.
    The common snapping turtle's distinctive characteristics still confuse it with the alligator snapping turtle. Its most noticeable trait is its hooked, parrot-like beak, which is used for securing food and self-defense. The neck is long and flexible, which allows it to reach from around its shell and deliver a nasty bite to anything (or anyone) that threatens it. 
        There are two small, skin-like projections on the chin of a snapping turtle called barbels. The top shell, or carapace, is smooth in larger animals, while young snapping turtles have small, tooth-like ridges, called keels. The outer-most bony plates in juvenile snapping turtles have a white spot on their underside. The tail also has tooth-like ridges, giving a very primitive appearance. Unlike other turtles, snapping turtles cannot pull their head or legs all the way into their shells for protection. The bottom shell, or plastron, is small and cross-shaped, meaning at the four corner points of the shell the legs are left exposed.
        Common snapping turtles are found in almost any permanent body of water, from rivers to farm ponds. They prefer areas with muddy bottoms, vegetation and other forms of cover (such as leaves or submerged timber). In shallow water, they tend to burrow into the mud and poke their heads above the surface every now and then for a gulp of air. There they wait for prey to come within range or just sit quietly to conserve energy and stay cool during the heat of the day.
        Snapping turtles are most active at night. Unlike most other aquatic turtles that spend much of the day basking on logs, snapping turtles rarely bask, preferring the safety of mud and weeds. The best time to see snapping turtles in daylight is during spring and early summer, when female turtles move out of the water in search of suitable nesting sites. Since snappers don't guard their nests of eggs, which they lay out in open grassy fields or bare soil, homo sapiens need to be careful and keep their eyes open for eggs. If you see, don't touch them and don't disturb them. Just as you prefer not to have someone handle or touch a growing baby in a human belly, extend the courtesy to local turtle friends.
        For the best coverage of the snapping turtle in Alabama, read "SNAP! A Look at Alabama's Snapping Turtles", an excellent  article from Outdoor Alabama magazine. Photo credit goes to John Wathen, while technical credit goes to the excellent website, Alabama Herps.