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For millions of years reptiles have walked, crawled, and slithered over the face of our Earth. From the mighty dinosaurs who dominated the land, the pterosaurs who took to the air, and the marine adapted ichthyosaurs, to the living reptiles today such as the lizards, snakes, crocodiles, and turtles, plus the single species of tuatara in New Zealand, reptiles have come in all shapes and sizes.
In this Very Short Introduction Tom Kemp discusses the adaptations reptiles made to first leave the sea and colonise the land in dry conditions, such as their waterproof skin, their ability to expel almost dry waste products, their efficient use of external heat for maintaining their body temperature, and the amniotic egg that is laid and develops on dry land. Considering the different living groups of reptiles today, Kemp then describes how their respective bodies are adapted for their different ways of life, from snake feeding patterns to the way crocodiles breathe. Finally, Kemp assesses the threat of extinction to reptile species due to over-exploitation, habitat destruction, and climate change, and considers what can be done.
1: What is a reptile?
2: The history of reptiles
7: Reptile conservation
Tom Kemp was appointed Tutor in Zoology at St John's College, Oxford, in 1975, where he conducted undergraduate teaching courses on vertebrate evolution and biology, and on palaeobiology. He was also Senior Dean for several years before his retirement in 2009, when he was elected Emeritus Research Fellow, and appointed Honorary Research Associate of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Tom Kemp's published titles include Mammals: A Very Short Introduction (OUP 2017), The Origin and Evolution of Mammals (OUP, 2005), and Mammal-like Reptiles and the Origin of Mammals (Academic Press, 1982), and his research and field collecting have taken him on expeditions to Zambia, South Africa, Australia, and India. Since 2013, Tom Kemp and his wife have travelled extensively in southern Africa, observing and photographing wildlife.
"Reptiles are more than the 'abhorrent, cold-bodied animals' of classical myth, but 10,000 species of successful animals. Tom Kemp outlines all the key aspects of the biology of lizards, snakes, turtles, and crocodiles, and traces their evolution, all illustrated by intriguing anecdotes"
– Professor Michael Benton