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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Squamata (Lizards and snakes)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Lepidosauromorpha > Lepidosauria

The Squamata have traditionally been split into three major taxa: the Amphisbaenia (worm lizards), Lacertilia (lizards) and Serpentes (snakes). However, recent molecular research shows that snakes and worm lizards evolved from lizards so to pull them out as separate taxa from lizards make the lizards a paraphyletic group. The name Squamata is derived from the Latin word squama meaning scale, and members of the Squamata are easiest identified by their scaly skin, which is shed periodically. A total of about 489 species of Squamata have been recorded from southern Africa.

Taxa native to southern Africa

Gekkonidae (geckos) 

Scincidae (skinks) 

Gerrhosauridae (plated lizards, snake-lizards and seps)

Cordylidae (girdled lizards and relatives)

Amphisbaenidae (amphisbaenians or worm lizards)

These worm-like lizards are adapted for living underground: they do not have legs, except for 3 species that have still retained rudimentary forelimbs, they have small, rudimentary eyes, and they have thick, heavy skulls that are flattened on top to enable pushing away of soil. They tend to lack pigmentation and are usually pinkish brown.

Lacertidae (lacertids, wall lizards)

Chamaeleonidae (chameleons)

Agamidae (agamas)

Varanidae (monitors)

One genus in southern Africa - Varanus.

Serpentes (snakes)

Snakes are legless carnivorous reptiles which lack eye lids and external ears. They have loosely attached jaws which enable them to swallow prey larger than the size of their heads. Very often they only have one lung and all other organs lie one behind the other. A large portion of snakes are non venomous, however there are several whose venom is lethal to humans.

Aspidelaps lubricus lubricus (Cape Coral snake)