Sauria (Lizards)


Lizards are generally small fast‐moving four‐legged slender terrestrial animals. The group of 4880 species of lizards, however, contains some exceptions: the large predatory Komodo dragon, the marine Galapagos iguana, the gliding Draco, various limbless forms, and burrowers.

Keywords: reptiles; lizards; ectothermy

Figure 1.

Lizard jaw mechanics: skull of Varanus, showing the skull flexed (a) up and (b) down; (c) lizard skull with the jaws open, and the streptostylic quadrate swung back, so that the pterygoideus jaw muscles have their maximum effect; (d) diagrams of lizard skulls showing the advantages of kinesis in holding a food particle (left), which would otherwise be forced out by the bite in a nonmobile skull (right). (e) Skull of the tuatara Sphenodon. Based on various sources in Benton (2005).

Figure 2.

The diversity of modern lizards. Reproduced from Young JZ (1981) The Life of Vertebrates. Oxford: Clarendon Press. With permission of Oxford University Press.

Figure 3.

Cladogram of lizard relationships, based on data in Estes et al. (1988). Lizard relationships are highly contentious, and this cladogram is a ‘conservative’ estimate.


Further Reading

Auffenberg W (1981) The Behavioral Ecology of the Komodo Monitor. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press.

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.

Estes R, de Queiroz K and Gauthier J (1988) Phylogenetic relationships within Squamata. In: Estes R and Pregill G (eds) Phylogenetic Relationships of the Lizard Families, pp. 119–281. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Evans SE (2003) At the feet of the dinosaurs: the early history and radiation of lizards. Biological Reviews 78: 513–551.

Gans C (ed) (1969) Biology of the Reptilia, 19 vols. New York: Academic Press.

Halliday TR and Adler K (eds) (1986) The Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Facts on File.

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.

Smith KK (1980) Mechanical significance of streptostyly in lizards. Nature 283: 778–779.

Young JZ (1981) The Life of Vertebrates. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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

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How to Cite close
Benton, Michael J(Sep 2005) Sauria (Lizards). In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0004127]