The 5 Most Intelligent Reptiles | Reptile Encounters

The 5 Most Intelligent Reptiles

By Reptile Encounters/18 September 2013

Believe it or not, reptiles are fairly intelligent creatures. In fact, the intelligence level of some species of reptiles rivals that of birds, or even mammals! And research shows that these cold-blooded creatures are only getting smarter. An article in Wired magazine suggests that global warming is changing reptile habitats around the world, and that a warmer nest makes for more intelligent inhabitants. Out of all the reptiles in the world, here are the five smartest. Some of them are featured in your favorite Reptile Encounters programs!


Despite their slow physical movements, the Snapping Turtle is sharp as a tack! Turtle owners report that they learn to recognize the sight of their food container and sound of food rattling around in it. Another owner shared that her turtles would try and climb rocks or burrow through mud in order to attempt to escape their outdoor pond enclosures. Wild turtles who are caught and later freed will head in the direction of the nearest water source. One researcher suggests that their ability to adapt to a wide range of environments is further proof that the Snapping Turtle is the most intelligent species of the turtle family.


The King Cobra is a snake that lives in tropical areas of the world, like Africa and Southern Asia. Although it has no hands or feet, in addition to slithering on the ground this agile reptile can climb trees and swim through streams and ponds. Unlike other snakes that strike out as a reaction to something else, like the presence of a human that startles them, the King Cobra will take a moment to determine the best way to strike in order to take down their prey.


frill neck lizard

Also known as the Frilled Dragon, this reptile gets its name from the large frill around its s neck.

They were made popular in the Disney film, The Rescuers Down Under. When opened the frill looks like a large, lacy collar that people wore during renaissance times. The lizard will quickly open the frill around his neck to scare away predators. However when the Frill-Neck Lizard is in danger, it hops onto its back feet and runs away at a fast pace on two legs, standing upright like a human. The Frill-Neck Lizard above is named Boof. Can you imagine him with his frills splayed out?


Native to the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico, the Emerald Anole is one clever little reptile! A group of behavioral ecologists at Duke University in the United States performed a study about evolution and cognitive abilities using Emerald Anole lizards and an experiment that required the creatures to find insect larva hidden under plastic discs. The result was that the Emerald Anole performed with the higher-level cognitive intelligence usually reserved for birds and mammals. 


 And coming in at the most intelligent reptile on the earth is the Monitor Lizard. Monitor Lizards can grow to be over a metre long and weigh more than 10kg. Monitors belong to a family of carnivorous lizards called the Varanidae. These creatures are among the most intelligent reptiles on earth, with some species learning to count snails at feeding time and displaying distinct personality traits. A few have even discovered how to use their forearms to help extract insects from logs. The National Zoo in Washington, D.C. reports that the komodo dragons housed there even recognize their human keepers on sight.


Many species of Monitor Lizard call Australia home, and first roamed the earth alongside their dinosaur cousins. Two good examples of modern day lizards in this family are Pano, the Yellow Spotted Monitor in the Threatened & Endangered Species show, and Lucy the Lace Monitor featured in this picture. Perhaps you will see them the next time you attend a Reptile Encounters program!
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