Squamata – Snakes & lizards

Scaled reptiles, lizard and snakes, survived the Dinosaurs extinction  – but will they survive humans?

The largest order within the Reptiles class comprises an astonishing diversity of reptiles, including snakes, lizards, and amphisbaenians, also known as worm lizards. What unites these creatures are their distinctive scales and specialized jaws, which set them apart from other reptilian groups.

One striking characteristic of Squamata is the presence of horny scales covering their bodies, which they shed periodically as they grow. While some species shed their entire skin in one piece, others shed scales in patches. This shedding process allows Squamates to maintain healthy, flexible skin that accommodates their growth and movement.

Among the many adaptations observed in Squamata is the loss of limbs in certain species, particularly those adapted for burrowing or life underground. This evolutionary change has resulted in legless forms such as snakes and certain species of amphisbaenians, allowing them to navigate through narrow spaces and efficiently pursue prey in their subterranean habitats.

Their highly mobile jaws are specially jointed to open their mouths extremely wide. This remarkable flexibility is most evident in snakes, which can swallow prey whole, often larger than their own heads. With astonishing efficiency, this extraordinary feeding strategy allows snakes to consume prey such as rodents, birds, and even other reptiles.

While most Squamates reproduce by laying eggs, approximately 100 species within the order are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. This reproductive strategy is particularly common among certain species of lizards and snakes, providing offspring with additional protection and resources during their early development.