Physical characteristics

Teiids range from small (2.1 in [55 mm] snout-to-vent length, 4.7 in [120 mm] total length), such as in Cnemidophorus inornatus, to large (23.6 in [600 mm] snout-to-vent, 59 in [1,500] mm total length), such as in Tupinambis rufescens. They are fully limbed, terrestrial lizards that are diurnal, active foragers. All teiids lay eggs. Teiids are distinguished from Old World lacertids by having head scales not fused to the skull bones (fused in Lacertidae) and teeth that are solid on the base (hollow in Lacertidae). Teiid teeth are held to the jaws with cementum, a characteristic so distinctive that fossil teiid jawbones can be identified through the presence of this feature alone. Teiids are characterized as having small granular scales on the dorsum and rectangular plate-like scales on the belly. In one genus, Kentropyx, the belly scales are modified into pointed and keeled scales hypothesized to be an adaptation for climbing in bushy vegetation. Despite interesting morphological differences among genera, all teiids are relatively long bodied and long limbed with relatively narrow heads. All teiids have long tails, often more than 1.5 times body length. Fracture planes in each tail vertebra allow their tails to be easily broken. Teiids have good visual and olfactory systems. They have well-formed eyes and eyelids and long, forked tongues.

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