Reptilia (Reptiles)


Reptiles are a diverse group of vertebrates, including turtles, crocodiles, lizards and snakes, as well as the extinct dinosaurs, pterosaurs, plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs. Reptiles lay cleidoic eggs (adapted to dry land), and they include the ancestors of birds and mammals.

Keywords: reptiles; lizards; snakes; turtles; crocodiles; dinosaurs; ectothermy

Figure 1.

Basic amniote characters. (a) The cleidoic egg, showing the semipermeable shell and the extraembryonic membranes. (b) The main skull designs seen in reptiles, and amniotes in general: anapsid, diapsid and synapsid. Abbreviations: j, jugal; p, parietal; po, postorbital; sq, squamosal. Based on various sources.

Figure 2.

Basic design of a diversity of reptiles. (a) The basal amniote Paleothyris, from the Mid Carboniferous of Canada. (b) The living marine turtle Chelone seen from below, with the plastron removed. (c) The extinct synapsid Thrinaxodon, from the Early Triassic of South Africa. (d) The extinct crocodilian Protosuchus from the Early Jurassic of North America. (e) The living sphenodontid Sphenodon, the tuatara. Based on various sources.

Figure 3.

Phylogeny of the Amniota, focusing on the major groups of reptiles, their fossil history and current diversity. 1, Pareiasauridae; 2, Procolophonidae.


Further Reading

Bellairs AA d’ (1969) The Life of Reptiles, 2 vols. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Benton MJ (1985) Classification and phylogeny of the diapsid reptiles. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 84: 97–164.

Benton MJ (2005) Vertebrate Palaeontology, 3rd edn. Oxford: Blackwell.

Gans C (ed.) (1969) Biology of the Reptilia, many vols. New York: Academic Press.

Gauthier J (1986) Saurischian monophyly and the origin of birds. Memoirs of the California Academy of Sciences 8: 1–56.

Laurin M and Reisz RR (1995) A reevaluation of early amniote phylogeny. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 113: 165–223.

Lee MSY (1995) Historical burden in systematics and the interrelationships of the parareptiles. Biological Reviews 70: 459–547.

O'Shea M and Halliday T (2002) Smithsonian Handbooks: Reptiles and Amphibians. Washington: DK Publishing.

Pough FH, Andrews R, Cadle J et al. (2003) Herpetology, 2nd edn. New York: Prentice Hall.

Pough FH, Janis CM and Heiser JB (2002) Vertebrate Life, 6th edn. New York: Prentice Hall.

Rieppel O (1993) Euryapsid relationships: a preliminary analysis. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen 188: 241–264.

Rubidge BS and Sidor CA (2001) Evolutionary patterns among Permo‐Triassic therapsids. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 32: 449–480.

Weishampel DB, Osmólska H and Dodson P (eds) (1990) The Dinosauria. Berkeley, OA: University of California Press.

Zug G, Vitt LJ and Caldwell JP (2001) Herpetology: an Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles, 2nd edn. New York: Academic.

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How to Cite close
Benton, Michael J(Sep 2005) Reptilia (Reptiles). In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0004126]