The earliest members of the class Reptilia were the first vertebrates to process amniotic
eggs. Amniotic eggs have outer membranes that protects the embryo from external shocks,
cushion the embryo, promote gas transfer and store waste
products. The eggs also have a
hard or leathery shell that protects the embryo, albumen that cushions and provides
moisture and nutrients to the embryo and yolk that supply food.
It is this feature that has made reptiles so successful,
allowing them to colonize areas where there is little water
and this exploit a whole new range of habitats.
Orders & Suborders:
There are approximately 225 species of turtles worldwide. This order is characterised by
a bony shell, limbs articulating internally to the ribs and a keratinized beak rather than
teeth. Turtles have long life spans and most reach sexual maturity after 7 or 8 years and can
live for more than 14 years. Large tortoises of the Gala'pagos Islands may live for over 100
years. Turtles are oviparous (lay eggs that develop outside the female body). Females lay
about 100 eggs in the soil and development takes about 4 weeks to 1 year.
This order is divided into three suborders:
Suborder Sauria - The Lizards
The lizards consists of about 3 300 species. In contrast with snakes, though there are a
few without legs, most lizards have two pairs of legs. Lizards vary in length from only a
few centimeters/inches to as large as 3 meters / 10 feet. Many lizards live on substrate
surfaces and retreat under logs and rocks when danger lurks. Some lizards are burrowers or
tree dwellers. Most lizards are oviparous (lay eggs that develop outside the female body),
but some are oviviparous (eggs that develop inside the female body) or viviparous
(offspring develop inside female reproductive track and is nourished by female). Eggs are
usually deposited under rocks, debris and in burrows.
Geckos are short and stout. They are nocturnal (night living) and
some are capable of
clicking vocalization. Their eyes are adapted for night vision. They also have adhesive
disks on their digits to aid them in clinging on almost anything (including glass).
Iguanas have robust bodies with short necks and distinct heads. This group includes the
marine iguanas and the flying dragons (Draco).
Chameleons are also a group of iguanas. They have arboreal lifestyles and use a long,
sticky tongue to capture food. Anolis, or the "pet-store chameleon" is
also an iguanid, but is not a true chameleon. Anolis and Chameleons are well
known for their ability to change colour in response to their environment or behavioural
The only venomous lizards are the Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum) and the
Mexican Beaded lizard (Heloderma horridum). These lizards are native to
the south-western parts of North America. Venom is released into grooves on the surface of teeth and
introduced into prey as the lizard chews. Lizard bites are seldom fatal to humans.
Suborder Serpentes - The Snakes
Snakes consists of about 2 300 species of which about 100 are venomous. Snakes are
elongate and lack limbs. The skeleton may consists of more than 200 vertebrae
between vertebrae make the body very flexible. Snakes possess skull adaptations that
facilitate swallowing large prey. These include upper jaws that are movable on the skull
and upper and lower jaws that are loosely jointed so that each half of the jaw can move
independently. Most snakes are oviparous (lay eggs that develop outside female body),
although a few can give birth to live young.
Suborder Amphisbaenia - Worm Lizards
The worm lizards consists of about 135 species. Worm lizards are
specialized burrowers that live in the soil. Most are legless and their sculls are wedge or shovel
shaped. A single median tooth in the upper jaw distinguishes Amphisbaenians from other
vertebrates. They can move easily forward and backwards. Worm lizards are oviparous (lay
eggs that develop outside the female body) and feed on worms and small insects.
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Some reptiles posses a median or parietal eye that develops from outgrowths of the roof
of the forebrain. In the tuatara it is an eye with a lens, a nerve and a retina. In other
reptiles it is less developed. It is covered by skin and probably cannot form images. They
can however distinguish between light and dark periods and are used in orientation to the
Olfactory senses are better developed in reptiles than in amphibians. In addition to
the partial secondary palate providing more surface for olfactory epithelium, many
reptiles possess blind-ending pouches that open through the secondary palate into the
mouth cavity. These pouches, called the Jacobson's organ, are best developed in the
squamates. In other words, snakes smell by sticking out their tongue to "catch"
the smell with chemical receptors and then by pressing it into the pouches of the
If you think I should add more information to this section or think that something is
incorrect, please contact me and let me know.
Last Updated 6 January 2006 by Renier Delport
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Miller, Stephen A. & Harley, John B. 1999 Zoology,
Fourth Edition, McGraw-Hill.
Bartlett, R.D. & Bartlett, Patricia P. 1995 Chameleons,
A Complete Pet Owner's Manual, Barron's Educational Books.
.:Buy from Kalahari.net
Mattison, Chris 1994 A Practical Guide to Exotic Pets - How to Keep
& Enjoy A
Wide Range Of Unusual Pets.
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