Evolution Of Defensive Mechanisms In Reptiles

2243 words - 9 pages

Reptiles, the class of reptilian, are an evolutionary grade of eukarya, including today’s turtles, crocodilians, snakes, lizards, as well as many other extinct groups. Reptiles have existed on this planet for millions of years and have undergone countless mutations. One area of interest is how have these creatures defended themselves as their predators have evolved? Over time, evolution has caused the many subspecies of reptiles to develop a wide variety of defensive mechanisms including: camouflage, venom, body armor, behaviors, and other abnormal morphologies. This topic is interesting from an evolutionary/ecological point of view for several reasons. It provides insight into how reptiles have changed over time, shows how defensive mechanisms differ even within sub species, and shows the relationship between benefit and costs of producing the mechanism. In looking at these mechanisms we as humans can create potential benefits to ourselves. By examining how and why certain defensive mechanisms have developed we could predict how they may continue to change. We can examine how the environmental changes have influenced these evolutionary changes and determine if there needs to be outside interference. Potentially, certain defensive mechanisms could be studied and adapted to help defend humans: scales to body armor, infrared vision, etc. Also, if we are harmed by any of these defensive mechanisms we need to be prepared to heal ourselves (venom and anti-venom). So how do these mechanisms exist in the wild?
Crypsis, or more commonly known as camouflage, is a way in which both predators and prey disguise themselves/ blend in with their environment. Not only is crypsis advantageous in defense or hunting situations, this mechanism is also beneficial in thermoregulation. There are many examples of camouflage variation in the reptilian world. “The main findings include associations between plain color and an active hunting strategy, longitudinal stripes and rapid escape speed, blotched patterns with ambush hunting, slow movement and pungent cloacal defense, and spotted patterns with close proximity to cover” (Allen et al. 2013). This can be found on snakes in particular. Snakes are also capable of mimicry. Certain colorations are known for being dangerous in the animal world and snakes have developed the ability to mimic that coloration without containing the lethal form of venom (Allen et al. 2013). The ability to blend in with one’s environment or trick predators is highly advantageous to survival. Also advantageous to survival is thermoregulation. Thermoregulation is the ability of an organism to keep its body temperature within certain boundaries, even when the surrounding temperature is very different (Merriam-Webster 2013). This is important in reptiles because they are cold blooded creatures meaning their body temperatures are dependent on the environment. This differs from warm blooded animals whose body can maintain a temperature usually higher...

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