There are now 10,000 reptiles on the face of the Earth -- as far as we know it. Actually, according to the Reptile Database, there are 10,038 reptiles ... and counting.
Reptiles, a class that includes snakes, turtles, crocodilians, lizards and tuataras (a distinct group native to New Zealand that resemble lizards), are some of the most ancient animals on the planet -- the class originally evolved over 300 million years ago.
Reptiles are on the high end for number of species in a class -- there 5,500 mammal species and 6,400 amphibians. There are about 10,000 bird species, but fish are the heavy hitters here, with a whopping 32,000 species.
"Officially, we have logged 10,038 reptile species into the database, which is up from 9.052 that was reported in April," said Peter Uetz, founder, editor and curator of the Reptile Database, in a release. "Previously, 10,000 was considered the landmark number because there are approximately 10,000 bird species. However, we can predict that reptiles will be more speciose, at least on paper, than birds very soon. Finally, reptiles will be the most speciose vertebrate group after fish."
Despite their large numbers, reptiles are sorely in need of conservation and underrepresented on the IUCN Red List, as Mongabay points out. Only 43 percent of reptiles have been evaluated by IUCN -- compared to all mammals and birds, and 90 percent of amphibians. Hopefully, the recent milestone will bring attention to the class and a change to that sad statistic.
So who was the lucky number 10,000? A small gecko native to Laos dubbed Cyrtodactylus vilaphongi tipped the scale, according to the database. The gecko was only described in July -- though the species has probably been around a couple hundred million years by now.