55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco CA
Regular Hours:


9:30 am – 5:00 pm


11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Members' Hours:


8:30 – 9:30 am


10:00 – 11:00 am

Please note: The Academy will be closing at 3:00 pm on 10/24 (final entry at 2:00 pm). We apologize for any inconvenience.

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Snakes & Lizards: The Summer of Slither
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Snakes and lizards are found everywhere from harsh desert to lush rainforest, high in the treetops and beneath the ground. From May 9 to September 5, 2011, over 60 new, scaled reptiles are invading the Academy. Don’t miss the summer of slither!

Snakes & Lizards

Located in the Forum, this exhibit features over 60 live snakes and lizards (collectively known as squamates) from five continents! Snakes & Lizards explores squamate evolution, locomotion, predation, and more. Before entering the Forum, strike a pose with our larger than life green chameleon and watch videos of how the Academy’s husbandry team cares for squamates.

Please note: Photography and food and beverage are not permitted in the exhibit.

A World of Sights

Frilled Lizard

This group of squamates relies on keen sight and sticky tongues to hunt their prey. They also use visual cues such as lashing tails and bobbing heads to communicate with their own species and warn off predators.

Photo: © AMNH/D. Finnin

Smelling in Tongues

Blue-tongued Skink

Prey, predators, mates, and their favorite burrows all have an identifying chemical signature that these snakes and lizards collect with their tongues and insert into special sense organs in their mouths.

Photo: © AMNH/D. Finnin

Life without Limbs

Emerald Tree Boa

Over the course of evolution, limbs vanished in some of the ancestors of squamates that use their tongues for smelling and tasting. Traits include heat sensing and deadly venom, constriction and expandable jaws.

Photo: © AMNH/D. Finnin

Squamate Studio

Henkel's Leaf-tail Gecko

An activity center for children encourages youngsters to engage in a variety of hands-on activities, including matching lizards to their habitats, assembling squamate skeletons, touching skin casts, piercing together puzzles, and playing science-related games.

Photo: © AMNH/D. Finnin

Buy Membership

The Academy wishes to thank the following media sponsors of the Snakes & Lizards exhibit:


98.1 KISS FM, STAR 101.3, WiLD 94.9, Oldies 103.7 and 106 KMEL

Lizards & Snakes: Alive! is organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, in collaboration with Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta, and the San Diego Natural History Museum, with appreciation to Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland.

The Academy’s specimens and live animals will highlighted throughout the building. Don’t miss the largest snake (in terms of length) in the building, located at the ground-floor entrance to the Snakes & Lizards exhibit. Prepare to be charmed.

Python reticulatus


Lemondrop, a bright yellow 15 ft (4.4 m) male albino reticulated python, lacks the dark pigment melanin necessary for normal coloration. Lack of coloration can be a survival disadvantage because he won’t blend into the environment and is more likely to be spotted by predators. Lemondrop was born in captivity and hasn’t faced the perils of the jungle environment.

Reticulated pythons are nonvenomous ambush hunters using both sight and smell to locate prey.

Evolving Traditions


Native American pottery and silver jewelry with snake and lizard motifs are highlighted in our upper gallery on the 3rd floor.

Learn more

Local Snakes & Lizards

Snake in the grass

Throughout the bay area, many snakes and lizards can be seen. These animals play an important role in balancing the ecosystems. Two lizard and one snake species live (or can be found) in Golden Gate Park. If we expand to include the bay area, that number rises to 17 species.

Learn more

Behind the Scenes

Watch behind the scenes footage of our favorite lizards and snakes.

Snake Pit


Explore the tunnel in the Piazza to find out more about these animals that evolved from ground dwelling or burrowing lizards.

Seeing: Eyes and sight vary greatly among snake species. Did you know snakes cannot move their eyes and move their head to look around.

Shedding: Snakes’ skin is covered entirely in scales. The scales have different shapes, sizes and functions. A snake hatches with a fixed number of scales that do not increase as it matures.

Moving: Snake skeletons are only vertebrae, ribs and a skull. Remains of pelvic bones are found in boas and pythons.

Sensing: Some snakes have special organs on their jaws that detect sources of heat in their surroundings.

Big, Bigger and Biggest

The biggest living snake is the green anaconda which grows to over 25 ft (8m). Edge Innovations, an animatronics firm, created an even bigger 40 ft (12 m) robotic snake, for the movie Anaconda. You can see that snake here! However, Hollywood’s anaconda doesn’t live up to the biggest known snake, Titanoboa, which was 43 ft (13 m) long and weighed 2500 lbs (1134 kg).


  • AMAZING SNAKES OF THE BAY AREA - Daily at 12:00 pm (beginning May 7). Learn about native snakes found in backyards and hiking trails throughout the Bay Area, and the important role they play in balancing ecosystems. A presenter will introduce live snake ambassadors, and explore their habitats and fascinating adaptations for living in local arid and coastal climates.
  • LIVE AFRICAN SAFARI - Daily at 1:00 pm (beginning May 7). Explore Africa on a mini-safari highlighting the continent’s biodiversity, and get up close and personal with fascinating live animals and specimens. Africa sustains many types of ecosystems – from savannahs and grasslands to tropical rainforests – and highly diverse wildlife, including numerous species of snakes and lizards, all of which exist in a delicate balance with one another.
  • SNAKES - SHEDDING THE MYTHS - Daily at 2:00 pm (beginning May 7). Snakes are both fascinating and sometimes a bit intimidating! Through the ages, they have been represented in myths, movies and pop culture in both positive and negative ways. Learn about how incredible they really are, face your fears, and discover where some of those misconceptions come from.
  • SCALES, TAILS, TEETH & MORE - Daily at 11:00 am. Discover the diversity of hunting, eating and locomotion strategies used by snakes and lizards. Having survived for more than 200 million years, squamates (the group snakes and lizards belong to) are among the most successful vertebrates on Earth.

At the Academy

Herpetology team

The Academy’s Herpetology department was founded in 1895. The departments’ curators, collections manager, curatorial assistants and research assistants actively conduct research around the world. Their research is focused on systematics and taxonomy of amphibians and reptiles. This involves discovering new species, describing them, naming them, preserving collections, providing data on their distributions, as well as investigating their evolutionary histories. Much of the department’s work is focused on African and Asian amphibians and reptiles.

During the past 25 years, the department has produced well over 100 scientific papers, and authored or contributed to the publication of at least 11 books.

Learn more

Academy Herpetology Collections

Galapagos tortoise egss

The Academy’s reptile collection is the 3rd largest in the world and the entire herpetology collection is the 6th largest in the world (with over 301,500 catalogued specimens). The collection contains specimens dating back to 1841. The largest specimen is a Galapagos tortoise. The oldest specimen is the whiptail lizard.

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Why We Collect?

Collectors at work

Collections form a huge library of information about what organisms live on Earth and where they live. They are the foundation of research on evolution, ecology, geographic distributions and more. There are approximately 14,000 known species of amphibians and reptiles. The Academy’s collection contains roughly 50% of the known species.

A point of pride for the department is 24% of the specimens, approximately 72,742 species, in the herpetology collection have been cited in scientific publications.

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Where We Collect?

Collectors encampment

The collection of amphibians and reptiles at the Academy is from almost everywhere – over 166 countries! Important holdings include those from the western United States and Mexico, Philippines, Myanmar, New Guinea and East and southern Africa.

Learn more

Scientists in Action



Admission to the California Academy of Sciences includes access to all museum and aquarium exhibits, including the rainforest, the planetarium, the living roof, and Snakes & Lizards during regular admission hours.

Purchase Tickets

Meet Kirana!


Come meet our newest addition to the Rainforest, an 18-foot-long, 150-pound python named Kirana! Congratulations to Bronwyn Miguel, the winner of our Name the Snake Contest!

Learn more

Plan Your Expedition


Reptiles are located throughout the building. The special Snakes & Lizards exhibit is located on Level 2 in the Forum. Other “don’t miss” exhibits are on Level 1 in the Piazza and outside the Café. Have fun exploring.

Interactive Map

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Snakeskin Wallpaper


Snakeskin Wallpaper

Click the link below to get your free snakeskin wallpaper. The beautiful pattern, a closeup of our ablino python, will look great on your desktop or mobile phone.

Get it now

Educator’s Guide


Check out the Educator’s Guide and come prepared to experience Snakes and Lizards. American Museum of Natural History produced this guide for the Lizards & Snakes: Alive! special exhibit, now featured at the Academy.