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By Michael Hutchins

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Thus an integrative discussion of these topics is especially meaningful for understanding the fascinating lives of reptiles. Skeleton, muscle, and movement Reptiles evolved from limbed ancestors, and they have an axial skeleton consisting of the vertebral column, limbs, and central nervous system encased in bone. The loss of limbs in snakes and some lizards evolved secondarily from limbed ancestors. Many of the fundamental features of the reptilian skeletal system and its attached musculature reflect adaptations for support and locomotion in terrestrial environments where strong weight-bearing elements are essential for counteracting gravity.

Thus autotomy and rapid tail loss are an effective adaptation to confuse or deter predators. The tail regenerates to varying degrees in most lizards, but the regrown tail has an axis of cartilage rather than bone and is not as long as the original structure. Separation of tails in a few species of snakes occurs between the vertebrae, and the broken tail does not regenerate markedly. A B C Tail regeneration. A. The autotomic split in the vertebra; B. The vertebra splits and the tail is shed; C. A shorter tail is regrown.

The simplest example of such behavioral thermoregulation is that of many lizards that shuttle between sunlit and shaded microenvironments, maintaining high body temperature, sometimes with remarkable precision. Body temperatures are maintained at levels between 95°F and 108°F (35°C and 42°C) during daylight hours in most diurnal species. Thus ectothermic reptiles can be as warm as many mammals. However, during nighttime hours or colder seasons in the temperate latitudes or high altitude, reptiles usually retreat to locations where temperatures are moderated, such as underground, in rock crevices, or in bodies of water.

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