Mother Nature

Reptiles, A Sampling

Reptiles are air breathing, cold-blooded vertebrates, usually with 4 limbs, and scales covering the skin rather than hair or feathers. Some give birth to live offspring, but most lay eggs.

This page will cover all reptiles, with the exception noted below. I have tried to find stamps from around the world, but this is by no means complete.

This page will cover:

  • Lizards, Geckos, Skinks, iguanas, monitors, dragons
  • Snakes
  • Crocodiles & alligators

Turtles & tortoises can be found on their own page.


Lizards (a general term) are reptiles found on all continents except Antarctica. Most lizards have four limbs, external ears, a long tail, and are insectivores. Many can shed their tails in order to escape from predators. They are active during the day, because they have to bask in the sun to gain energy for movement.

Geckos are a type of lizard that makes chirping sounds, unique among lizards. Several species have “sticky” toe pads that adhere without liquids or surface tension, and that let them climb smooth surfaces, even walls & ceilings. They eat insects, so they are sort of welcome in homes.

Skinks are quite varied lizards, and usually have a body length up to 12 cm, with a long thin tail that can be shed and regenerated. They are carnivorous, eating insects, earthworms, snails and slugs.

Iguanas, monitors and dragons are a few other names for lizards.

The stamps above are 4 of a set of 17 animals, both mammals and reptiles, issued by Australia over a number of years. One more of them is in the next group.
  • Aus #784 – 1’ Lace Monitor – Varanus varius - This reptile can be as long as 2.1 m (over 6ft 10ins) with a head and body length of up to 76.5 cm (2½ ft). The tail is long and slender and about 1.5 times the length of the head and body. Living mostly in eastern Australia, they consume insects, reptiles, small mammals, birds and birds' eggs.
  • Aus #792 - 40’ Smooth Knob-tailed Gecko – Nephrurus levis - This is native to central Australia. They are characterized by short limbs and a short tail ending in a knob.
  • Aus #798 - 85’ Centralian Blue-tongued Lizard – Tiliqua multifasciata - also called Blue-tongued Skinks, they live in a wide variety of habitats from deserts to tropical jungles, and are omnivorous.
  • Aus #800 - 95’ Thorny Devil – Moloch horridus – Its body is covered in little horns as a protection against predators. It inhabits arid desert & scrub in central Australia and eats primarily ants.

  • Aus #797 - 75’ Eastern Water Dragon – Physignathus lesueurii – an arboreal lizard that likes to live near water, and is a good swimmer. It feeds on insects (aquatic and terrestrial), molluscs, small fish, turtle hatchlings, and fruit.
  • US #3815 - 37’ Reticulate Collared Lizard – Crotaphytus reticulates – This is a moderately sized lizard, about 16” long, found in Texas and northern Mexico. They feed on invertebrates, and even other lizards. The collar referred to in the common name is the markings developed on the male during breeding season.
  • United Nations stamp - 32’ Fiji Banded Iguana - Brachylophus fasciatus – This is an arboreal iguana, living on Fiji, Tonga & other Pacific islands. The stamp labels it as Endangered, due to habitat loss and introduction of predators.

The 3 above are part of a set of reptiles, with one tortoise, issued by Romania.

  • Romania #1720 – 10 b lizard – Lacerta taurica
  • Romania #1721 – 20 b lizard – Lacerta trilineata – Balkan green lizard
  • Romania #1722 – 40b lizard – Ablepharus kitaibelii - European copper skink, this is a small creature that hides under stones and leaves in dry areas of Eastern Europe. It is active at dusk.

New Zealand issued this set in 1984.
  • NZ #804 – 24’, Great Barrier Skink is native to the Great Barrier Island off the north coast of the North Island of NZ. I could not find a scientific name for them.
  • NZ #805 - 30’ Harlequin Gecko - Hoplodactylus rakiurae – endemic to New Zealand
  • NZ #806 - 58’ Otago Skink - Oligosoma otagense – Native to central Otago region of the South Island of NZ, these are large skinks, up to 12” long. Their markings provide excellent camouflage. Like most others, Otago skinks eat a wide variety of insects and fleshy fruits. They live up to 15 years, are slow to mature (3-4 years), and give birth to 3-4 live young.
  • NZ #807 - 70’ Gold Stripe Gecko – Hoplodactylus chrysosireticus is endemic to New Zealand. It is nervous, and will shed its tail at the slightest hint of trouble.

This set of stamps had 5 in the set; the one not shown here was a frog, shown in Amphibians.

The 4 stamps above from Papua-New Guinea each has both a common name and scientific name.
  • #478 – 10t – Blue tailed Skink – Emoia caeruleocauda – found on Southwest Pacific islands and Australia. The name is a description of the animal.
  • #479 – 15t – Green tree skink – Lamprolepis smaragdina – lives in tropical forests in the islands of the Southwest Pacific. They eat mostly insects and other small creatures, and sometimes fruit and plants.
  • #480 – 35t – Crocodile skink – Tribolonotus gracilis – These live in tropical forests too; females lay one egg at a time and often curl around the egg. The young will climb on the backs of both parents. This species also show tendencies for mother-child family groups.
  • #481 – New Guinea Blue Tongued skink – Tiliqua gigas - characterized by a blue tongue, this skink lives on New Guinea and Indonesian islands. The blue tongue is displayed to warn off enemies.


Snakes are reptiles without limbs, and with scales covering their bodies. Some are viviparous (live birth) and some lay eggs. They can be fairly harmless or quite poisonous to humans; many are very useful in keeping the population of rodents down. The snakes shown here are of various sorts, and not in any particular order.

The first of these snakes is harmless, but the others are deadly to humans.
  • Aus #795 – 65’ Yellow-faced whip snake - Demansia psammophis – a thin snake of Western Australia.
  • Aus #2567 – 50’ Eastern Brown snake - Pseudonaja textilis - is a venomous snake native to eastern Australia and parts of New Guinea, and one of the world's deadliest land snakes. Its diet consists of small animals, mainly rodents. This is part of a set of Dangerous Wildlife stamps in 2006.
  • Yemen –180 fils stamp – Naja haje – Egyptian cobra, averaging between 1 and 2.5m (4-8 ft) long. Their fangs cannot be folded down, so they are shorter than fangs on other venomous snakes like rattlers.
  • Nicaragua #1197 – C2.00 - South American Bushmaster - Lachesis muta - this is a large pit viper, length 2 to 3 m. It resembles rattlesnakes, and vibrates its tail vigorously when alarmed, but has no rattle and was therefore called muta, which is Latin for dumb or mute. The words on the stamp “Mata buey” translates as “It kills ox”.

Like I said, no particular order. One harmless and one poisonous snake above:

  • Poland #1135 – 40 gr Smooth Snake - Coronella austriaca – This is a harmless snake of northern and central Europe, averaging .5 m in length.
  • El Salvador – 25 c airmail – South American Rattlesnake - Stamp shows names Cascabel & Crotalus durissus – a pit viper, which prefers savannah and drier sandy areas. ”Cascabel” in Spanish means “bell”, but I have no idea why.

  • Romania #1677 – 5 b Indian python - Python mollorus – This is a large constrictor snake in India, adults being about 4 m long (15 ft). It prefers to prey on mammals, but will eat other animals too. It is considered Near Threatened because it is eaten by locals for medicinal use. This stamp is one of a set about the Bucharest Zoo.
  • Cambodia #421 – 30 riel Naja naja – This stamp shows what seems to be an Indian Speckled cobra, with hood expanded in an attempt to appear bigger. They reach on average 1.2–2.5m (4 to 8 ft) long. The ‘spectacles’ on the hood are obvious.
  • US #3814 - 37’ Scarlet Kingsnake – Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides - harmless, under 20” long, found in eastern USA, mostly in Florida. Their colouration mimics venomous coral snakes. They eat skinks, other small animals & eggs.

The snake stamps above were issued by the Soviet Union in 1977, but I am sorry to say, I have not been able to translate the names of the snakes from the Cyrillic.
  • #4626 - 1 k
  • #4627 - 4 k
  • #4628 - 6 k
  • #4629 - 10 k
  • #4630 - 12 k - this is the only reptile that looks familiar to me, a Cobra with the typical expanded hood.

Crocodiles and Alligators

Crocodiles are large aquatic reptiles that live throughout the tropics in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia. The term also includes alligators, caimans and gharials. Crocodiles tend to live in freshwater habitats like rivers, lakes, wetlands and sometimes in brackish water. They feed mostly on fish, reptiles, and mammals, sometimes on mollusks and crustaceans, depending on species.

What I am showing here is only a taste of the numbers of stamps with these animals.

The main difference in appearance between alligators and crocodiles is that alligators have U-shaped heads, while crocodiles’ are V-shaped. Also, both upper and lower teeth are visible on the closed mouth of a crocodile, but only the upper teeth show on an alligator.

The 3 stamps above are about American reptiles.
  • US #1428, 8’ face, shows an American Alligator - Alligator mississippiensis. These predators live in inland wetlands throughout the southeastern US, from North Carolina to Texas. They are top of the food chain, taking anything they can. This was one stamp in a set of 4 issued in 1971 and is labeled Wildlife Conservation. The other 3 stamps in the set each had similar coloured bars on 2 sides, which create a box when they are together.
  • Argentina #685 – 10’ face value, also the American alligator, called “Yacare” (Spanish for alligator) on the stamp.
  • UN stamp about Endangered Species, 29’ - American crocodile - Crocodylus acutus – This reptile is found on both coasts of Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, coasts of Peru & Venezuela. Only a remnant population is found in southern Florida, where they may grow to 4 m (13 ft), whereas the rest of them in more tropical areas grow to 6 m (20 ft). They live in freshwater or brackish water coastal habitats, and mangrove swamps.

The 2 stamps above are about Australian reptiles.
  • Aus #799 – 90 ’ Freshwater crocodile - Crocodylus johnsoni – This one is endemic to Australia. Found in the northern regions of Australia, it is much smaller than the Saltwater Crocodile, growing to only 2.1 m (7 ft).
  • Aus #1526 – 20’ Saltwater crocodile – Crocdylus porosus – widely distributed in Southeast Asia, Australia & Pacific islands, but rare in some of that range. A top predator, large and powerful. This is an Endangered species.

See Endangered Wildlife for more threatened species.

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