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INTRODUCTION TO ANIMALS

 
The reptiles were from the outset of classification grouped with the amphibians. Linnaeus working from species poor Sweden where the common adder and grass Snake are often found hunting in water, included all reptiles and amphibians in class "III - Amphibia" in his Systema Natured.[1] The terms "reptile" and "amphibian" weere largely interchangeable, "reptiles" being preferred by the French.[2] Josephus Nicolaus Laurenti were the first to formally use the term "Reptilia" for an expanded, though basically similar selection of reptiles and amphibians to that of Linnaeus.[3] Not until the turn of the century did it become clear that reptiles and amphibians are in fact quite different animals, and Pierre André Latreille erected the class Batracia for the latter, dividing the tetrapods into the four familiar classes of reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals.[4]

The British anatomist Thomas Henry Huxley made Latreille's definition popular, and together with Richard Owen expanded Reptilia to include the various fossil “Antediluvian monster”, including the mammal-like Dicynodon he helped describe. This was not the only possible classification scheme: In the Hunterian lectures delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1863, Huxley grouped the vertebrates into Mammals, Sauroids, and Ichthyoids (the latter containing the fishes and amphibians). He subsequently proposed the names of Sauropsida and Ichthyopsida for the two.[5]

Around the end of the 19th century, the class reptilia had com to included all the amniotes except birds and mammals. Thus reptiles were defined as the set of animals that includes crocodiles, alligators, tuatara, lizards, snakes, amphisbaenians, and turtles, grouped together as the class Reptilia (Latin repere, "to creep"). This is still the usual definition of the term. However, in recent years, many taxonomists[who?] have begun to insist that taxa should be monophyletic, that is, groups should include all descendants of a particular form. The reptiles as defined above would be paraphyletic, since they exclude both birds and mammals, although these also developed from the original reptile. Colin Tudge writes:

Mammals are a clade, and therefore the cladists are happy to acknowledge the traditional taxon Mammalia; and birds, too, are a clade, universally ascribed to the formal taxon Aves. Mammalia and Aves are, in fact, subclades within the grand clade of the Amniota. But the traditional class reptilia is not a clade. It is just a section of the clade Amniota: the section that is left after the Mammalia and Aves have been hived off. It cannot be defined by synapomorphies, as is the proper way. It is instead defined by a combination of the features it has and the features it lacks: reptiles are the amniotes that lack fur or feathers. At best, the cladists suggest, we could say that the traditional Reptila are 'non-avian, non-mammalian amniotes'.[6]
 

 

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