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Essay The Biology and Diversity of Extant Reptiles

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The Biology and Diversity of Extant Reptiles


The word reptile itself does not describe a monophyletic group of
vertebrates, like the mammals or birds. It is used to classify a
polyphyletic group of animals that are a subset of the larger group of
Amniotes. The term is best described through a cladogram: [IMAGE]

The reptiles first appeared in the early Carboniferous, having evolved
from labyrinthodont amphibians. They had several distinct advantages
over the amphibians that allowed them to flourish during the cold, dry
Permian period. These lead them to be the most successful group of
vertebrates and this period was referred to as the "age of reptiles."
They exploited all terrestrial niches, a few marine and even one group
took to the air. No other group of vertebrates had ever displayed such
diversity and mammals today are their only match. They were the first
group of tetrapods to successfully overcome the major problems of
terrestrial life, namely desiccation, thermoregulation and
respiration.



Adaptations to withstand desiccation
====================================

Unlike amphibians reptiles are able to tolerate dryer conditions and
avoid desiccation. This allowed them to exploit more niches and
therefore achieve greater radiation. They did this in a number of
ways: 1 Skin. Reptilian skin is impermeable to water due to its unique
structure. It has a thick dermis and a thick epidermis. The relative
thickness of these layers helps somewhat in water conservation but it
is the components of the epidermis that make the skin waterproof. See
diagram: The α-keratin makes up the lower layer and is softer and more
pli...


... middle of paper ...


...whilst it is on land, something like a suspension bridge. Unlike the
chelonia, crocodiles do show a great deal of parental care, they build
and guard nests, help their young to hatch and acre for their young in
nursery pools for several weeks after hatching.Summary

As seen from this essay the diversity and subsequent biology of
reptiles is very wide and encompasses many niches. However reptiles
today are nowhere near as prolific as they were in the Mesozoic era
where they ruled the earth and exploited hundreds, if not thousands,
more niches. The real diversity and biology of reptiles was seen about
60 million years ago, before the mammals got a hold. But the only way
to investigate that is through the fossil record and that will never
give us all the information needed to draw a complete picture of
reptile diversity.


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