Most small children can tell you that 'reptiles' are the snakes, lizards, crocodiles, and turtles (perhaps with the dinosaurs thrown in) - suggesting that it's easy to tell the difference between reptiles and other animals. Unfortunately, evolutionary biologists struggle with the same task, because phylogenetic analysis tells us loud and clear that these different types of what we loosely call 'reptiles' are not particularly closely related to each other (Figure 1). On the evolutionary tree, some of them (dinosaurs, crocodiles) are much more closely related to birds than to the other animals that we call reptiles. Other reptiles are the descendants of very ancient lineages; for example, turtles separated from the other reptiles, including the now-dominant Squamata (lizards and snakes), at least 200 million years ago. And another 200-million-year-old lineage has left just a single survivor, a lizard-like creature (the tuatara), on a few islands in New Zealand.
|Number of pages||5|
|Publication status||Published - 18 Mar 2013|