Uploaded by Admin on Jan 22, 1999
Reptiles are vertebrate, or backboned animals constituting the class Reptilia and are characterized by a combination of features, none of which alone could separate all reptiles from all other animals.
The characteristics of reptiles are numerous, therefore can not be explained in great detail in this report. In no special order, the characteristics of reptiles are: cold-bloodedness; the presence of lungs; direct development, without larval forms as in amphibians; a dry skin with scales but not feathers or hair; an amniote egg; internal fertilization; a three or four-chambered heart; two aortic arches (blood vessels) carrying blood from the heart to the body, unlike mammals and birds that only have one; a metanephric kidney; twelve pairs of cranial nerves; and skeletal features such as limbs with usually five clawed fingers or toes, at least two spinal bones associated with the pelvis, a single ball-and-socket connection at the head-neck joint instead of two, as in advanced amphibians and mammals, and an incomplete or complete partition along the roof of the mouth, separating the food and air passageways so that breathing can continue while food is being chewed.
These and other traditional defining characteristics of reptiles have been subjected to considerable modification in recent times. The extinct flying reptiles, called pterosaurs or pterodactyls, are now thought to have been warm-blooded and covered with hair. Also, the dinosaurs are also now considered by many authorities to have been warm-blooded. The earliest known bird, archaeopteryx, is now regarded by many to have been a small dinosaur, despite its covering of feathers The extinct ancestors of the mammals, the therapsids, or mammallike reptiles, are also believed to have been warm-blooded and haired. Proposals have been made to reclassify the pterosaurs, dinosaurs, and certain other groups out of the class Reptilia into one or more classes of their own.
The class Reptilia is divided into 6 to 12 subclasses by different authorities. This includes living and extinct species. In addition, a number of these subclasses are completely extinct. The subclasses contain about 24 orders, but only 4 of these are still represented by living animals.
Of the living orders of reptiles, two arose earlier than the age of reptiles, when dinosaurs were dominant. Tuataras, of the order Rhynchocephalia, are found only on New Zealand islands, whereas the equally ancient turtles, order Chelonia, occur nearly worldwide. The order Crocodilia emerged along with the dinosaurs. Snakes and lizards, order Squamata, are...