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What are reptiles?

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What are reptiles? Reptiles evolved from amphibians, but there are several important differences between these two kinds of animal. The most obvious difference in the living animals is that reptiles have scaly skin to prevent their bodies from drying out, while amphibians have thinner, moist skin.

Reptiles also have a more efficient heart and kidneys to equip them for living on land, and they have evolved more efficient ways of walking.

It is not so easy to tell the difference between reptiles and amphibians when examining fossils because the soft parts of the body are not preserved. However, there are important structural changes in the skeleton that can be observed.

How do reptiles differ from amphibians?

The development of eggs with protective shells was the single thing that freed r eptiles from the watery environment which amphibians needed to reproduce. The egg of a reptile contains membranes, which surround the developing embryo. They provide a protective pool of liquid and food stores for use while the embryo grows. The young reptile completes its development inside the egg, and emerges perfectly formed as a miniature version of the adult.

Reptiles also differ in having a scaly skin that helps protect them from predators, in contrast to the thin naked skin of amphibians. Their heart and circulation is also improved to allow them to have a more active lifestyle.

Which were the first reptiles?

The earliest known reptiles were small lizard-like animals, only a few centimeters long. They appeared about 330 million years ago, and are known to have lived in the rotted stumps of fallen trees. They probably fed on insects and other small creatures living in fallen trees. Reptiles quickly adapted to live in habitats that were not suitable for the amphibians. They spread across many parts of the Earth's surface and developed into flying forms as well as many types of land-dweller.

What did early reptiles look like?

Unlike the amphibians, reptiles were able to exploit all the available food sources and many of them adopted a vegetarian diet. These reptiles were not dinosaurs, but many looked like the dinosaurs that would follow.

Carnivorous reptiles developed with long fangs to stab and tear their prey. These animals were lightly built and fast moving in order to hunt. Other were herbivores, developing teeth capable of grinding vegetation and huge barrel-like bodies to contain the massive digestive system needed to cope with a vegetable diet.

Although some of these reptiles looked like the dinosaurs, scientists know from studying the structure of their hip bones and limbs that most would have been more clumsy when walking or running.


Tags: reptiles, animal



Category: Education  - ( Education Archive)

Date Added: 15 December '11


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