Physical characteristics

Lacertids are conservative in morphology, and no species have lost limbs, ears, or eyes. They are small- to medium-sized with slender bodies, well-developed limbs, and a long tail that in oriental grass lizards (Takydromus) may be nearly five times as long as the head and body. The dorsal scales are usually small, smooth, and granular (although in some genera they are large, rough, and overlapping). The belly scales are always large and quadrangular and almost always arranged in distinct longitudinal and transverse rows. The head is covered with large, symmetrical scales that have osteoderms, and most species have a pineal "eye" on the top of the head. The tongue is quite deeply notched. A skin-fold "collar" of enlarged scales on the neck is also usually present. In the skull the upper temporal arches are completely ossified, and the pterygoid and palatine bones are paired and lie close together anteriorly. The pterygoids often bear a group of palatal teeth. The dentition of the jaws is pleurodont (the teeth attached to the sides of the jawbone). Femoral pores are usually present in both sexes. The tail has whorls of keeled scales, which may be spiny; the tail is easily shed but can be regenerated. A complex armature supports the hemipenes in the Eremiainae.

A wall lizard (Podarcis lilfordi) from southern Europe. (Photo by Animals Animals © E. R. Degginger. Reproduced by permission.)

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