We all are familiar with some animals that are just really, REALLY big. For instance, there is a boa constrictor that resides in our science building on campus, and everyone can only expect him to get bigger as the years progress. I remember my childhood of watching Steve Irwin ("The Crocodile Hunter") as he would harass alligators and as Jeff Corwin caught giant toads. Oh, the wonders of Animal Planet.
The reason why herptiles continue to get bigger throughout their life is due to their growth pattern, called indeterminate growth. This means that the growth of herptiles does not end at sexual maturity, and often, the growth of these cold-blooded creatures is dependent upon food sources and the environment. Still, animals grow at the fastest rate when they are juveniles, so if you want to own a giant snake, it would be best to stuff it full of food when it is still young. Following sexual maturity, the animal needs to allocate a portion of its energy to reproductive functions. As a juvenile, the animal devotes all of its nutrients towards life and growth.
|Human growth plates. From http://www.aclsolutions.com/|
|Cross section of a wood frog toe. Notice that this one is in its|
third year of growth. From http://i701.photobucket.com/
Four limbs, two limbs, or no limbs, they are all trees on the inside.