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Squamata is the largest order of reptiles, comprising lizards, snakes and amphisbaenians (worm lizards), which are collectively known as squamates or scaled reptiles. With over 10,000 species,[3] it is also the second-largest order of extant (living) vertebrates, after the perciform fish, and roughly equal in number to the Saurischia (one of the two major groups of dinosaurs). Members of the order are distinguished by their skins, which bear horny scales or shields. They also possess movable quadrate bones, making it possible to move the upper jaw relative to the neurocranium. This is particularly visible in snakes, which are able to open their mouths very wide to accommodate comparatively large prey. Squamata is the most variably sized order of reptiles, ranging from the 16 mm (0.63 in) dwarf gecko (Sphaerodactylus ariasae) to the 5.21 m (17.1 ft) green anaconda (Eunectes murinus) and the now-extinct mosasaurs, which reached lengths of over 14 m (46 ft).

Squamata
Temporal range:
Early JurassicPresent, 199–0 Ma[1]
Blue-toungued skink444.jpg
Eastern blue-tongued lizard
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Superorder: Lepidosauria
Order: Squamata
Oppel, 1811
Subgroups[2]

Among other reptiles, squamates are most closely related to the tuatara, which superficially resembles lizards.

Contents

EvolutionEdit

 
Slavoia darevskii, a fossil squamate

Squamates are a monophyletic sister group to the rhynchocephalians, members of the order Rhynchocephalia. The only surviving member of Rhynchocephalia is the tuatara. Squamata and Rhynchocephalia form the subclass Lepidosauria, which is the sister group to Archosauria, the clade that contains crocodiles and birds, and their extinct relatives. Fossils of rhynchocephalians first appear in the Early Triassic, meaning that the lineage leading to squamates must have also existed at the time.[4] Scientists believe crown group squamates probably originated in the Early Jurassic based on the fossil record.[4] The first fossils of geckos, skinks and snakes appear in the Middle Jurassic.[5] Other groups like iguanians and varanoids appeared in the Cretaceous. Polyglyphanodontians, a distinct clade of lizards, and mosasaurs, a group of predatory marine lizards that grew to enormous sizes, also appeared in the Cretaceous.[6] Squamates suffered a mass extinction at the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–PG) boundary, which wiped out polyglyphanodontians, mosasaurs and many other distinct lineages.[7]

The relationships of squamates is debatable. Although many of the groups originally recognized on the basis of morphology are still accepted, our understanding of their relationships to each other has changed radically as a result of studying their genomes. Iguanians were long thought to be the earliest crown group squamates based on morphological data,[6] however, genetic data suggests that geckoes are the earliest crown group squamates.[8] Iguanians are now united with snakes and anguimorphs in a clade called Toxicofera. Genetic data also suggests that the various limbless groups; snakes, amphisbaenians and dibamids, are unrelated, and instead arose independently from lizards.

A study in 2018 found that Megachirella, an extinct genus of lepidosaur that lived about 240 million years ago during the Middle Triassic, was a stem-squamate, making it the oldest known squamate. The phylogenetic analysis was conducted by performing high-resolution microfocus X-ray computed tomography (micro-CT) scans on the fossil specimen of Megachirella to gather detailed data about its anatomy. This data was then compared with a phylogenetic dataset combining the morphological and molecular data of 129 extant and extinct reptilian taxa. The comparison revealed Megachirella had certain features that are unique to squamates. The study also found that geckos are the earliest crown group squamates not iguanians.[9][10]

ReproductionEdit

 
Trachylepis maculilabris skinks mating

The male members of the group Squamata have hemipenes, which are usually held inverted within their bodies, and are everted for reproduction via erectile tissue like that in the human penis.[11] Only one is used at a time, and some evidence indicates that males alternate use between copulations. The hemipenis has a variety of shapes, depending on the species. Often it bears spines or hooks, to anchor the male within the female. Some species even have forked hemipenes (each hemipenis has two tips). Due to being everted and inverted, hemipenes do not have a completely enclosed channel for the conduction of sperm, but rather a seminal groove that seals as the erectile tissue expands. This is also the only reptile group in which both viviparous and ovoviviparous species are found, as well as the usual oviparous reptiles. Some species, such as the Komodo dragon, can reproduce asexually through parthenogenesis.[12]

 
The Japanese striped snake has been studied in sexual selection

There have been studies on how sexual selection manifests itself in snakes and lizards. Snakes use a variety of tactics in acquiring mates.[13][dubious ] Ritual combat between males for the females they want to mate with includes topping, a behavior exhibited by most viperids, in which one male will twist around the vertically elevated fore body of its opponent and forcing it downward. It is common for neck biting to occur while the snakes are entwined.[14]

Facultative parthenogenesisEdit

 
The effects of central fusion and terminal fusion on heterozygosity

Parthenogenesis is a natural form of reproduction in which the growth and development of embryos occur without fertilization. Agkistrodon contortrix (copperhead snake) and Agkistrodon piscivorus (cotton mouth snake) can reproduce by facultative parthenogenesis. That is, they are capable of switching from a sexual mode of reproduction to an asexual mode.[15] The type of parthenogenesis that likely occurs is automixis with terminal fusion (see figure), a process in which two terminal products from the same meiosis fuse to form a diploid zygote. This process leads to genome wide homozygosity, expression of deleterious recessive alleles and often to developmental abnormalities. Both captive-born and wild-born A. contortrix and A. piscivorus appear to be capable of this form of parthenogenesis.[15]

Reproduction in squamate reptiles is ordinarily sexual, with males having a ZZ pair of sex determining chromosomes, and females a ZW pair. However, the Colombian Rainbow boa, Epicrates maurus, can also reproduce by facultative parthenogenesis resulting in production of WW female progeny.[16] The WW females are likely produced by terminal automixis.

Inbreeding avoidanceEdit

When female sand lizards mate with two or more males, sperm competition within the females reproductive tract may occur. Active selection of sperm by females appears to occur in a manner that enhances female fitness.[17] On the basis of this selective process, the sperm of males that are more distantly related to the female are preferentially used for fertilization, rather than the sperm of close relatives.[17] This preference may enhance the fitness of progeny by reducing inbreeding depression.

Evolution of venomEdit

Recent research suggests that the evolutionary origin of venom may exist deep in the squamate phylogeny, with 60% of squamates placed in this hypothetical group called Toxicofera. Venom has been known in the clades Caenophidia, Anguimorpha, and Iguania, and has been shown to have evolved a single time along these lineages before the three groups diverged, because all lineages share nine common toxins.[18] The fossil record shows the divergence between anguimorphs, iguanians, and advanced snakes dates back roughly 200 Mya to the Late Triassic/Early Jurassic.[18] But the only good fossil evidence is from the Jurassic.[1]

Snake venom has been shown to have evolved via a process by which a gene encoding for a normal body protein, typically one involved in key regulatory processes or bioactivity, is duplicated, and the copy is selectively expressed in the venom gland.[19] Previous literature hypothesized that venoms were modifications of salivary or pancreatic proteins,[20] but different toxins have been found to have been recruited from numerous different protein bodies and are as diverse as their functions.[21]

Natural selection has driven the origination and diversification of the toxins to counter the defenses of their prey. Once toxins have been recruited into the venom proteome, they form large, multigene families and evolve via the birth-and-death model of protein evolution,[22] which leads to a diversification of toxins that allows the ambush predators the ability to attack a wide range of prey.[23] The rapid evolution and diversification is thought to be the result of a predator–prey evolutionary arms race, where both are adapting to counter the other.[24]

Humans and squamatesEdit

Bites and fatalitiesEdit

 
Map showing the global distribution of venomous snakebites

An estimated 125,000 people a year die from venomous snake bites.[25] In the US alone, more than 8,000 venomous snake bites are reported each year.[26]

Lizard bites, unlike venomous snake bites, are not fatal. The Komodo dragon has been known to kill people due to its size, and recent studies show it may have a passive envenomation system. Recent studies also show that the close relatives of the Komodo, the monitor lizards, all have a similar envenomation system, but the toxicity of the bites is relatively low to humans.[27] The Gila monster and beaded lizards of North and Central America are venomous, but not deadly to humans.

ConservationEdit

Though they survived the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, many squamate species are now endangered due to habitat loss, hunting and poaching, illegal wildlife trading, alien species being introduced to their habitats (which puts native creatures at risk through competition, disease, and predation), and other anthropogenic causes. Because of this, some squamate species have recently become extinct, with Africa having the most extinct species. However, breeding programs and wildlife parks are trying to save many endangered reptiles from extinction. Zoos, private hobbyists and breeders help educate people about the importance of snakes and lizards.

Classification and phylogenyEdit

 
Desert iguana from Amboy Crater, Mojave Desert, California

Historically, the order Squamata has been divided into three suborders:

Of these, the lizards form a paraphyletic group,[28] since "lizards" excludes the subclades of snakes and amphisbaenians. Studies of squamate relationships using molecular biology have found several distinct lineages, though the specific details of their interrelationships vary from one study to the next. One example of a modern classification of the squamates is[2][29]

Squamata
Dibamia

Dibamidae

Bifurcata
Gekkota
Pygopodomorpha

Diplodactylidae Underwood 1954 

Pygopodidae Boulenger 1884 

Carphodactylidae

Gekkomorpha

Eublepharidae

Gekkonoidea

Sphaerodactylidae Underwood 1954

Phyllodactylidae  

Gekkonidae

Unidentata
Scinciformata
Scincomorpha

Scincidae 

Cordylomorpha

Xantusiidae

Gerrhosauridae 

Cordylidae 

Episquamata
Laterata
Teiformata

Gymnophthalmidae Merrem 1820 

Teiidae Gray 1827 

Lacertibaenia
Lacertiformata

Lacertidae  

Amphisbaenia

Rhineuridae Vanzolini 1951

Bipedidae Taylor 1951 

Blanidae Kearney & Stuart 2004 

Cadeidae Vidal & Hedges 2008

Trogonophiidae Gray 1865

Amphisbaenidae Gray 1865 

Toxicofera
Anguimorpha
Palaeoanguimorpha
Shinisauria

Shinisauridae Ahl 1930 sensu Conrad 2006

Varanoidea

Lanthanotidae

Varanidae 

Neoanguimorpha
Helodermatoidea

Helodermatidae Gray 1837 

Xenosauroidea

Xenosauridae

Anguioidea

Diploglossidae

Anniellidae

Anguidae Gray 1825

Iguania
Acrodonta

Chamaeleonidae 

Agamidae Gray 1827 

Pleurodonta

Leiocephalidae

Iguanidae 

Hoplocercidae Frost & Etheridge 1989

Crotaphytidae

Corytophanidae

Tropiduridae

Phrynosomatidae

Dactyloidae

Polychrotidae

Liolaemidae

Leiosauridae

Opluridae

Serpentes
Scolecophidia

Leptotyphlopidae Stejneger 1892 

Gerrhopilidae Vidal et al. 2010

Xenotyphlopidae Vidal et al. 2010

Typhlopidae Merrem 1820 

Anomalepididae

Alethinophidia
Amerophidia

Aniliidae

Tropidophiidae Brongersma 1951

Afrophidia
Booidea

Uropeltidae 

Anomochilidae

Cylindrophiidae 

Xenopeltidae Bonaparte 1845

Loxocemidae

Pythonidae Fitzinger 1826 

Boidae 

Xenophidiidae

Bolyeriidae Hoffstetter 1946

Caenophidia

Acrochordidae Bonaparte 1831

Xenodermidae

Colubroidea

Pareidae

Viperidae 

Proteroglypha

Homalopsidae

Colubridae 

Lamprophiidae

Elapidae 

All recent molecular studies[18] suggest that several groups form a venom clade, which encompasses a majority (nearly 60%) of squamate species. Named Toxicofera, it combines the groups Serpentes (snakes), Iguania (agamids, chameleons, iguanids, etc.), and Anguimorpha (monitor lizards, Gila monster, glass lizards, etc.).[18]


Frost & Etheridge, 1989== List of extant families == The over 10,000 extant squamates are divided into 58 families.

Amphisbaenia
Family Species count Common names Example species Example photo
Amphisbaenidae
Gray, 1865
Over 120 Tropical worm lizards Darwin's worm lizard (Amphisbaena darwinii)
Bipedidae
Taylor, 1951
4 Bipes worm lizards Mexican mole lizard (Bipes biporus)  
Blanidae 7 Mediterranean worm lizards Mediterranean worm lizard (Blanus cinereus)
Cadeidae
Vidal & Hedges, 2008[30]
2 Cuban worm lizards Cadea blanoides
Rhineuridae
Vanzolini, 1951
1 North American worm lizards North American worm lizard (Rhineura floridana)  
Trogonophidae
Gray, 1865
5 Palearctic worm lizards Checkerboard worm lizard (Trogonophis wiegmanni)
Gekkota (incl. Dibamia)
Family Species count Common names Example species Example photo
Dibamidae
Boulenger, 1884
23 Blind lizards Dibamus nicobaricum
Gekkonidae
Gray, 1825 (paraphyletic)
About 1,000 Geckos Thick-tailed gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii)  
Pygopodidae
Boulenger, 1884
44 Legless lizards Burton's snake lizard (Lialis burtonis)  
Iguania
Family Species count Common names Example species Example photo
Agamidae
Spix, 1825
Over 300 Agamas Eastern bearded dragon (Pogona barbata)  
Chamaeleonidae
Gray, 1825
202 Chameleons Veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus)  
Corytophanidae
Frost & Etheridge, 1989
9 Casquehead lizards Plumed basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons)  
Crotaphytidae
Frost & Etheridge, 1989
12 Collared and leopard lizards Common collared lizard (Crotaphytus collaris)  
Hoplocercidae
Frost & Etheridge, 1989
16 Wood lizards or clubtails Club-tail iguana (Hoplocercus spinosus)
Iguanidae 40 Iguanas Marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus)  
Leiosauridae
Frost et al., 2001
21 Darwin's iguana (Diplolaemus darwinii)
Liolaemidae
Frost & Etheridge, 1989
Over 200 Swifts Shining tree iguana (Liolaemus nitidus)  
Opluridae
Frost & Etheridge, 1989
8 Madagascan iguanas Chalarodon (Chalarodon madagascariensis)
Phrynosomatidae
Frost & Etheridge, 1989
136 Earless, spiny, tree, side-blotched and horned lizards Greater earless lizard (Cophosaurus texanus)  
Polychrotidae
Frost & Etheridge, 1989 (+ Dactyloidae)
7 Anoles Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis)  
Tropiduridae
Frost & Etheridge, 1989
At least 130 Neotropical ground lizards (Microlophus peruvianus)  
Lacertoidea (excl. Amphisbaenia)
Family Species count Common Names Example Species Example Photo
Alopoglossidae
Goicoechea, Frost, De la Riva, Pellegrino, Sites Jr., Rodrigues, & Padial, 2016
23 Ptychoglossus vallensis  
Gymnophthalmidae
Fitzinger, 1826
Over 270 Spectacled lizards Bachia bicolor  
Lacertidae
Oppel, 1811
Over 300 Wall or true lizards Ocellated lizard (Lacerta lepida)  
Teiidae 151 Tegus or whiptails Gold tegu (Tupinambis teguixin)  
Neoanguimorpha
Family Species count Common names Example species Example photo
Anguidae
Oppel, 1811
About 100 Glass lizards, alligator lizards and slowworms Slowworm (Anguis fragilis)  
Anniellidae
Gray, 1852
6 American legless lizards California legless lizard (Anniella pulchra)  
Helodermatidae 5 Gila monsters Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum)  
Xenosauridae
Cope, 1866
10 Knob-scaled lizards Mexican knob-scaled lizard (Xenosaurus grandis)
Paleoanguimorpha or Varanoidea
Family Species count Common names Example species Example photo
Lanthanotidae 1 Earless monitor Earless monitor (Lanthanotus borneensis)  
Shinisauridae 1 Chinese crocodile lizard Chinese crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus)  
Varanidae 75 Monitor lizards Perentie (Varanus giganteus)  
Scincoidea
Family Species count Common Names Example Species Example Photo
Cordylidae About 70 Spinytail lizards Girdle-tailed lizard (Cordylus warreni)  
Gerrhosauridae 34 Plated lizards Sudan plated lizard (Gerrhosaurus major)  
Scincidae
Oppel, 1811
Over 1500 Skinks Western blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua occipitalis)  
Xantusiidae 34 Night lizards Granite night lizard (Xantusia henshawi)  
Alethinophidia
Family Species count Common names Example species Example photo
Acrochordidae
Bonaparte, 1831[31]
3 File snakes Marine file snake (Acrochordus granulatus)  
Aniliidae
Stejneger, 1907[32]
1 Coral pipe snakes Burrowing false coral (Anilius scytale)
Anomochilidae
Cundall, Wallach and Rossman, 1993.[33]
3 Dwarf pipe snakes Leonard's pipe snake, (Anomochilus leonardi)
Boidae
Gray, 1825[31] (incl. Calabariidae)
49 Boas Amazon tree boa (Corallus hortulanus)  
Bolyeriidae
Hoffstetter, 1946
2 Round Island boas Round Island burrowing boa (Bolyeria multocarinata)
Colubridae
Oppel, 1811[31] sensu lato (incl. Dipsadidae, Natricidae, Pseudoxenodontidae)
Nearly 2,000 Colubrids Grass snake (Natrix natrix)  
Cylindrophiidae
Fitzinger, 1843
8 Asian pipe snakes Red-tailed pipe snake (Cylindrophis ruffus)  
Elapidae
Boie, 1827[31]
325 Cobras, coral snakes, mambas, kraits, sea snakes, sea kraits, Australian elapids King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah)  
Homalopsidae
Bonaparte, 1845
Over 50
Lamprophiidae
Fitzinger, 1843[34]
315 Bibron's burrowing asp (Atractaspis bibroni)
Loxocemidae
Cope, 1861
1 Mexican burrowing snakes Mexican burrowing snake (Loxocemus bicolor)  
Pareatidae
Romer, 1956
20
Pythonidae
Fitzinger, 1826
31 Pythons Ball python (Python regius)  
Tropidophiidae
Brongersma, 1951
34 Dwarf boas Northern eyelash boa (Trachyboa boulengeri)
Uropeltidae
Müller, 1832
About 50 Shield-tailed snakes, short-tailed snakes Cuvier's shieldtail (Uropeltis ceylanica)  
Viperidae
Oppel, 1811[31]
224 Vipers, pitvipers, rattlesnakes European asp (Vipera aspis)
Xenodermatidae
Fitzinger, 1826
About 18
Xenopeltidae
Gray, 1849
2 Sunbeam snakes Sunbeam snake (Xenopeltis unicolor)  
Scolecophidia (incl. Anomalepidae)
Family Common names Example species Example photo
Anomalepidae
Taylor, 1939[31]
15 Dawn blind snakes Dawn blind snake (Liotyphlops beui)
Gerrhopilidae
Vidal et al., 2010[30]
Over 16
Leptotyphlopidae
Stejneger, 1892[31]
87 Slender blind snakes Texas blind snake (Leptotyphlops dulcis)  
Typhlopidae
Merrem, 1820[35]
Over 200 Blind snakes European blind snake (Typhlops vermicularis)  
Xenotyphlopidae
Vidal et al., 2010[30]
2 Xenotyphlops grandidieri

ReferencesEdit

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Further readingEdit

  • Bebler, John L.; King, F. Wayne (1979). The Audubon Society Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of North America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 581. ISBN 0-394-50824-6.
  • Capula, Massimo; Behler (1989). Simon & Schuster's Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of the World. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-69098-1.
  • Cogger, Harold; Zweifel, Richard (1992). Reptiles & Amphibians. Sydney: Weldon Owen. ISBN 0-8317-2786-1.
  • Conant, Roger; Collins, Joseph (1991). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians Eastern/Central North America. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-395-58389-6.
  • Ditmars, Raymond L (1933). Reptiles of the World: The Crocodilians, Lizards, Snakes, Turtles and Tortoises of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. New York: Macmillan. p. 321.
  • Evans, SE (2003). "At the feet of the dinosaurs: the origin, evolution and early diversification of squamate reptiles (Lepidosauria: Diapsida)". Biological Reviews, Cambridge. 78: 513–551. doi:10.1017/S1464793103006134. PMID 14700390.
  • Evans SE. 2008. The skull of lizards and tuatara. In Biology of the Reptilia, Vol.20, Morphology H: the skull of Lepidosauria, Gans C, Gaunt A S, Adler K. (eds). Ithaca, New York, Society for the study of Amphibians and Reptiles. pp1–344. Weblink to purchase
  • Evans, SE; Jones, MEH (2010). "The origin, early history and diversification of lepidosauromorph reptiles. In Bandyopadhyay S. (ed.), New Aspects of Mesozoic Biodiversity". 27 Lecture Notes in Earth Sciences. 132: 27–44. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-10311-7_2.
  • Freiberg, Dr. Marcos; Walls, Jerry (1984). The World of Venomous Animals. New Jersey: TFH Publications. ISBN 0-87666-567-9.
  • Gibbons, J. Whitfield; Gibbons, Whit (1983). Their Blood Runs Cold: Adventures With Reptiles and Amphibians. Alabama: University of Alabama Press. p. 164. ISBN 978-0-8173-0135-4.
  • McDiarmid, RW; Campbell, JA; Touré, T (1999). Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. 1. Herpetologists' League. p. 511. ISBN 1-893777-00-6.
  • Mehrtens, John (1987). Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling. ISBN 0-8069-6461-8.
  • Rosenfeld, Arthur (1989). Exotic Pets. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 293. ISBN 0-671-47654-8.

External linksEdit