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Order Description

Squamata Suborder: Lacertilia


Order Description

The Order Squamata, scaled reptiles, is the largest order of reptiles with over 6,000 living species. It is composed of three suborders: the Amphisbaenia (amphisbaenians), the Lacertilia (lizards), and the Serpentes (snakes). Members of this huge order are found worldwide, except in Antarctica and on a few very remote islands. All members of this order share similar characters in bone structures and anatomy of the male sex organ. All also have bodies covered in scales, and all periodically shed their skin.

Family Anguidae

This family is represented in Georgia by four species of Glass Lizards. These lizards look like snakes at first glance, but they have external ear openings and moveable eyelids and snakes do not. Their tails are very long and will break off quite easily if not handled carefully. That is how they got their common name. Members of this family have bones (osteoderms) in their scales, which make the body stiff. A groove along the side of the body allows it to expand when it becomes distended with food or eggs.
Species in this family:
    Eastern Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis)
    Island Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus compressus)
    Mimic Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus mimicus)
    Slender Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus attenuatus)

Family Gekkonidae

This family is not native to Georgia, but one species has become established by accidental introduction. This large family is found on all continents in temperate and tropical climates. Most Geckos are nocturnal. They lack moveable eyelids, which means they cannot blink. They have specialized toe pads that allow them to walk on walls and ceilings. Geckos are in Georgia because of the pet trade or have arrived as stowaways in cargo shipped from overseas.
Species in this family:
    Mediterranean Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)

Family Phrynosomatidae

This family contains a large group of terrestrial and semi-arboreal American lizards. They are commonly known as Horned Lizards and Spiny Lizards. The majority of species in this group are covered with strongly keeled scales that make the scales rough, almost prickly in appearance and touch. Georgia is home to one member of this family.
Species in this family:
    Eastern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus)

Family Polychrotidae

This family is limited to Anoles, which only occur in the western hemisphere. This is a very diverse group with 10 genera and over 650 species. These slender arboreal lizards are characterized by the brightly colored, extendible flap of skin (dewlap) on the throat of males. The dewlap is used to communicate during courtship and territorial display. The United States has one native species of Anole.
Species in this family:
    Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei)
    Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)

Family Scincidae

This family is limited to Skinks, which occur on all continents in temperate and tropical climates. The family is characterized by smooth, shiny scales that cover the body, and tails that break off easily. Skinks use their tail-breaking ability as a mechanism for escape from predators. There are two genera and six species in Georgia.
Species in this family:
    Broadhead Skink (Eumeces laticeps)
    Coal Skink (Eumeces anthracinus)
    Five-lined Skink (Eumeces fasciatus)
    Ground Skink (Scincella lateralis)
    Mole Skink (Eumeces egregius)
    Southeastern Five-lined Skink (Eumeces inexpectatus)

Family Teiidae

This family is found only in the Americas. North American representatives are called Whiptails or Racerunners. These diurnal lizards are commonly seen darting about in open areas in search of insect prey. These slender, terrestrial lizards have belly scales that are larger than the scales on their back and sides. Only one genus and species occurs east of the Mississippi River.
Species in this family:
    Six-lined Racerunner (Cnemidophorus sexlineatus)