What's your favourite reptile?

Scientists have ranked the world's most 'popular' reptiles.

The researchers from Oxford University and Tel Aviv University, taking data taken from Wikipedia, found that fearsome species such as the Komodo dragon, saltwater crocodile and king cobra were of greatest interest to website users.

The team, comprising zoologists, geographers and computer scientists looked at 55.5 million page views in the year 2014 for all of the 10,002 species of reptiles accessed in Wikipedia.

They found that venomous or endangered species, as well as those with higher body mass or posing a threat to humans, tended to be more interesting overall. And the winners are:

1. Komodo dragon
2. Black mamba
3. Saltwater crocodile
4. king cobra
5. Gila monster
6. Cottonmouth (viper)
7. American alligator
8. Leatherback sea turtle
9. Nile crocodile
10. Boa constrictor

Taking all languages into account, the Komodo dragon was the most popular species overall, followed by the common European adder and the saltwater crocodile.

The results are published in the journal Biological Conservation, said Oxford University in a statement.

Although the study was aimed solely at gathering data, the researchers speculated on the reasons behind the huge variations in public interest between species.

Said co-lead author John C. Mittermeier: "With notable exceptions such as the sea turtle or Galapagos giant tortoise, species that are venomous or otherwise dangerous to humans seem to capture people's imaginations more than others.

"The Komodo dragon is found in a geographical area probably the size of a small English county, yet it consistently attracts the most attention - possibly because the idea of the dragon is so universal in myth and folklore."

This article was first published on May 6, 2016.
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