Lizard Development

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Anolis carolinensis (green anole) mating.
Australian water skink embryo

Lizards and snakes represent scaled reptiles (squamata). Lizard development involves an amniotic egg, that evolutionary (~320 million years ago) freed the vertebrates from their aquatic (water) to a terrestrial (land) environment. The Galápagos Islands marine iguana was also made famous by Charles Darwin's historic evolution studies.

The genome of the lizard Anolis carolinensis (green anole) from southeastern United States has a karyotype of 18 chromosomes, comprising six pairs of large macrochromosomes and 12 pairs of small microchromosomes, and has recently been sequenced [1]. Interestingly, almost all reptilian genomes also contain "microchromosomes", very small chromosomes less than 20 Mb in sequence size. (More? Genome)

Lizard links: 1904 Sand Lizard | Category:Lizard

Some Recent Findings

  • Identifying the evolutionary building blocks of the cardiac conduction system[2] "The endothermic state of mammals and birds requires high heart rates to accommodate the high rates of oxygen consumption. These high heart rates are driven by very similar conduction systems consisting of an atrioventricular node that slows the electrical impulse and a His-Purkinje system that efficiently activates the ventricular chambers. While ectothermic vertebrates have similar contraction patterns, they do not possess anatomical evidence for a conduction system. ... Mammalian and avian ventricles uniquely develop thick compact walls and septum and, hence, form a discrete ventricular conduction system from the embryonic spongy ventricle. Our study uncovers the evolutionary building plan of heart and indicates that the building blocks of the conduction system of adult ectothermic vertebrates and embryos of endotherms are similar."
  • Tooth development in a model reptile: functional and null generation teeth in the gecko Paroedura picta[3] "This paper describes tooth development in a basal squamate, Paroedura picta. Due to its reproductive strategy, mode of development and position within the reptiles, this gecko represents an excellent model organism for the study of reptile development. ...We show evidence for a stratum intermedium layer in the enamel epithelium of functional teeth and show that the bicuspid shape of the teeth is created by asymmetrical deposition of enamel, and not by folding of the inner dental epithelium as observed in mammals."
  • Patterns of interspecific variation in the heart rates of embryonic reptiles[4] "New non-invasive technologies allow direct measurement of heart rates (and thus, developmental rates) of embryos. We applied these methods to a diverse array of oviparous reptiles (24 species of lizards, 18 snakes, 11 turtles, 1 crocodilian), to identify general influences on cardiac rates during embryogenesis. Heart rates increased with ambient temperature in all lineages, but (at the same temperature) were faster in lizards and turtles than in snakes and crocodilians. We analysed these data within a phylogenetic framework. Embryonic heart rates were faster in species with smaller adult sizes, smaller egg sizes, and shorter incubation periods."
  • Reptilian spermatogenesis: A histological and ultrastructural perspective[5] "Until recently, the histology and ultrastructural events of spermatogenesis in reptiles were relatively unknown. Most of the available morphological information focuses on specific stages of spermatogenesis, spermiogenesis, and/or of the mature spermatozoa. No study to date has provided complete ultrastructural information on the early events of spermatogenesis, proliferation and meiosis in class Reptilia. Furthermore, no comprehensive data set exists that describes the ultrastructure of the entire ontogenic progression of germ cells through the phases of reptilian spermatogenesis (mitosis, meiosis and spermiogenesis)."
More recent papers  
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This table shows an automated computer PubMed search using the listed sub-heading term.

  • Therefore the list of references do not reflect any editorial selection of material based on content or relevance.
  • References appear in this list based upon the date of the actual page viewing.

References listed on the rest of the content page and the associated discussion page (listed under the publication year sub-headings) do include some editorial selection based upon both relevance and availability.

Links: References | Discussion Page | Pubmed Most Recent | Journal Searches

Search term: Lizard Embryology

Petr Cizek, Pavla Hamouzova, Pavel Kvapil, Michal Kyllar Light and scanning electron microscopy of the tongue of the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis). Folia Morphol. (Warsz): 2018; PubMed 30009360

Joni Ollonen, Filipe O Da Silva, Kristin Mahlow, Nicolas Di-Poï ##Title## Front Physiol: 2018, 9;278 PubMed 29643813

Jialiang S Wang, Carlos R Infante, Sungdae Park, Douglas B Menke PITX1 Promotes Chondrogenesis and Myogenesis in Mouse Hindlimbs Through Conserved Regulatory Targets. Dev. Biol.: 2017; PubMed 29273440

Ester Desfilis, Antonio Abellán, Vicente Sentandreu, Loreta Medina Expression of regulatory genes in the embryonic brain of a lizard and implications for understanding pallial organization and evolution. J. Comp. Neurol.: 2017; PubMed 28891227


Iguana - historic drawing

root; cellular organisms; Eukaryota; Opisthokonta; Metazoa; Eumetazoa; Bilateria; Coelomata; Deuterostomia; Chordata; Craniata; Vertebrata; Gnathostomata; Teleostomi; Euteleostomi; Sarcopterygii; Tetrapoda; Amniota; Sauropsida; Sauria; Lepidosauria

Squamata (squamates) - snakes and lizards.

  • Iguania (iguanian lizards) - arboreal with primitively fleshy, non-prehensile tongues, highly modified in the chameleons.
    • Acrodonta
    • Iguanidae (iguanid lizards)
  • Scleroglossa
    • Amphisbaenia
    • Anguimorpha (anguimorph lizards)
    • Gekkota - all geckos and the limbless Pygopodidae.
    • Scincomorpha (scincomorph lizards)
    • Serpentes (snakes)
  • unclassified Squamata
Links: Taxonomy Browser Lizards

Development Overview

Australian Water Skink


Anolis carolinensis (green anole) mating.

Anolis carolinensis (green anole)

The genome of the lizard Anolis carolinensis (green anole) from southeastern United States has a karyotype of 18 chromosomes, comprising six pairs of large macrochromosomes and 12 pairs of small microchromosomes, and has recently been sequenced.[1] Interestingly, almost all reptilian genomes also contain "microchromosomes", very small chromosomes less than 20 Mb in sequence size.

It is a model organism for laboratory-based studies of organismal function and for field studies of ecology and evolution. This species was chosen for genome sequencing in part because of the ease and low expense of captive breeding, well studied brain, and sophisticated color vision. It is also well suited for studies involving the role of hormones in development and adult nervous system plasticity. (modified from Genome)

Search PubMed Genome: Lizard


  1. 1.0 1.1 Jessica Alföldi, Federica Di Palma, Manfred Grabherr, Christina Williams, Lesheng Kong, Evan Mauceli, Pamela Russell, Craig B Lowe, Richard E Glor, Jacob D Jaffe, David A Ray, Stephane Boissinot, Andrew M Shedlock, Christopher Botka, Todd A Castoe, John K Colbourne, Matthew K Fujita, Ricardo Godinez Moreno, Boudewijn F ten Hallers, David Haussler, Andreas Heger, David Heiman, Daniel E Janes, Jeremy Johnson, Pieter J de Jong, Maxim Y Koriabine, Marcia Lara, Peter A Novick, Chris L Organ, Sally E Peach, Steven Poe, David D Pollock, Kevin de Queiroz, Thomas Sanger, Steve Searle, Jeremy D Smith, Zachary Smith, Ross Swofford, Jason Turner-Maier, Juli Wade, Sarah Young, Amonida Zadissa, Scott V Edwards, Travis C Glenn, Christopher J Schneider, Jonathan B Losos, Eric S Lander, Matthew Breen, Chris P Ponting, Kerstin Lindblad-Toh The genome of the green anole lizard and a comparative analysis with birds and mammals. Nature: 2011, 477(7366);587-91 PubMed 21881562 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "PMID21881562" defined multiple times with different content
  2. Jensen B, Boukens BJ, Postma AV, Gunst QD, van den Hoff MJ, Moorman AF, Wang T & Christoffels VM. (2012). Identifying the evolutionary building blocks of the cardiac conduction system. PLoS ONE , 7, e44231. PMID: 22984480 DOI.
  3. Zahradnicek O, Horacek I & Tucker AS. (2012). Tooth development in a model reptile: functional and null generation teeth in the gecko Paroedura picta. J. Anat. , 221, 195-208. PMID: 22780101 DOI.
  4. Du WG, Ye H, Zhao B, Pizzatto L, Ji X & Shine R. (2011). Patterns of interspecific variation in the heart rates of embryonic reptiles. PLoS ONE , 6, e29027. PMID: 22174948 DOI.
  5. Gribbins KM. (2011). Reptilian spermatogenesis: A histological and ultrastructural perspective. Spermatogenesis , 1, 250-269. PMID: 22319673 DOI.


Murphy BF & Thompson MB. (2011). A review of the evolution of viviparity in squamate reptiles: the past, present and future role of molecular biology and genomics. J. Comp. Physiol. B, Biochem. Syst. Environ. Physiol. , 181, 575-94. PMID: 21573966 DOI.

Dzialowski EM, Sirsat T, van der Sterren S & Villamor E. (2011). Prenatal cardiovascular shunts in amniotic vertebrates. Respir Physiol Neurobiol , 178, 66-74. PMID: 21513818 DOI.

Gamble T. (2010). A review of sex determining mechanisms in geckos (Gekkota: Squamata). Sex Dev , 4, 88-103. PMID: 20234154 DOI.


Wise PA, Vickaryous MK & Russell AP. (2009). An embryonic staging table for in ovo development of Eublepharis macularius, the leopard gecko. Anat Rec (Hoboken) , 292, 1198-212. PMID: 19645023 DOI.

Noro M, Uejima A, Abe G, Manabe M & Tamura K. (2009). Normal developmental stages of the Madagascar ground gecko Paroedura pictus with special reference to limb morphogenesis. Dev. Dyn. , 238, 100-9. PMID: 19097047 DOI.

Storm MA & Angilletta MJ. (2007). Rapid assimilation of yolk enhances growth and development of lizard embryos from a cold environment. J. Exp. Biol. , 210, 3415-21. PMID: 17872995 DOI.

Fabrezi M, Abdala V & Oliver MI. (2007). Developmental basis of limb homology in lizards. Anat Rec (Hoboken) , 290, 900-12. PMID: 17415759 DOI.

Sanger TJ & Gibson-Brown JJ. (2004). The developmental bases of limb reduction and body elongation in squamates. Evolution , 58, 2103-6; discussion 2107-8. PMID: 15521466

Muthukkaruppan V, Kanakambika P, Manickavel V & Veeraraghavan K. (1970). Analysis of the development of the lizard, Calotes versicolor. I. A series of normal stages in the embryonic development. J. Morphol. , 130, 479-89. PMID: 5437480 DOI.

Mohammed MB. (1984). Development of the lizard limb as shown by the distribution of [35S]sulphate incorporation. J. Anat. , 138 ( Pt 3), 399-403. PMID: 6429113


Herrick CJ. The Brain of the Tiger Salamander (1948) The University Of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois.

Search PubMed

Search PubMed: Lizard development | Anolis carolinensis


Fig. 343. Head of a Lizard Embryo (Sphenodon punctatum Hatteria)

Schwalbe (1891) points out the significant fact that in reptiles that lack an external ear (lizard and turtle) there occur distinct hillocks in the embryo, resembling those in vertebrates that develop an auricle. These hillocks undergo degeneration and are reduced to the level of the surrounding skin. He finds in both birds and reptiles hillocks corresponding to the tragus and antitragus hillocks of His. These animals have one hillock (Auricularkegel), situated dorsal to the first cleft, which seems to represent a more primitive apparatus than is present in mammals, although it may be related to the helix system. In Salachians it possesses a spiracle.

(From Contributions to Embryology No.69)

Sand Lizard 1904

Normal Plates of the Development of Vertebrates 4 - Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis) by Karl Peter

The Brain of the Tiger Salamander 1948

Herrick CJ. The Brain of the Tiger Salamander (1948) The University Of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois.

Part I. General Description and Interpretation 1. Salamander Brains | 2. Form and Brain Subdivisions | 3. Histological Structure | 4. Regional Analysis | 5. Functional Analysis, Central and Peripheral | 6. Physiological Interpretations | VII. The Origin and Significance of Cerebral Cortex | VIII. General Principles of Morphogenesis Part 2. Survey of Internal Structure 9. Spinal Cord and Bulbo-spinal Junction | 10. Cranial Nerves | 11. Medulla Oblongata | 12. Cerebellum | 13. Isthmus | 14. Interpeduncular Nucleus | 15. Midbrain | 16. Optic and Visual-motor Systems | 17. Diencephalon | 18. Habenula and Connections | 19. Cerebral Hemispheres | 20. Systems of Fibers | 21. Commissures | Bibliography | Illustrations | lizard

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