Cash, W. Ben Department of Biology, Maryville College, Maryville, Tennessee.
- Fundamental characteristics
- Living reptiles
- Position of birds and other controversies
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A class of vertebrates composed of turtles, lizards, snakes, crocodilians, and tuataras, as well as a variety of extinct members. As traditionally defined, the class Reptilia is composed of four living orders—Testudines (= Chelonia; turtles), Rhynchocephalia (tuataras), Squamata (lizards and snakes), and Crocodylia (= Crocodilia; crocodilians)—as well as numerous extinct orders. Using recent scientific findings, however, many experts are now giving support to a very different arrangement of the reptile group that asserts that birds have a far closer evolutionary relationship to reptiles than once thought, and in fact should be considered reptiles. A classical taxonomy for the class is given below, followed by the classification scheme for extant reptiles currently accepted by most professional herpetologists. All orders other than the Testudines (= Chelonia), Rhynchocephalia, Squamata, and Crocodylia (= Crocodilia) are extinct. See also: Chelonia; Crocodylia; Rhynchocephalia; Squamata; Vertebrata
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