These were the first class of organisms to adapt to life on land. They are believed to have evolved from the amphibians millions of years ago. There are about 10000 different species of reptiles on earth. They are cold-blooded animals belonging to the phylum Chordata of Animal kingdom.

The skull of the reptiles is modified that gives the reptiles an efficient and powerful jaw action. The modification also makes the skull light.

Characteristics of Reptilia

Following are the important characteristics of the animals belonging to Class Reptilia:

  1. These are creeping and burrowing terrestrial animals with scales on their body.

  2. They are cold-blooded animals found in most of the warmer regions of the world.

  3. Their skin is dry, and rough, without any glands.

  4. The body is divided into head, neck, trunk, and tail.

  5. Few of these shed the scales on their skin as skin cast.

  6. The respiration takes place with the help of the lungs.

  7. The skull is monocondylic.

  8. Limbs may or may not be present. If they have limbs, they are two pairs of pentadactyl limbs, each bearing claws. Snakes do not have limbs.

  9. The heart is 3 chambered. However, crocodiles have a 4-chambered heart.

  10. The nervous system comprises 12 pairs of cranial nerves.

  11. Reptiles do not have external ear openings. Tympanum represents ear

  12. They possess a typical cloaca.

  13. Reptiles are generally uricotelic. They mostly excrete nitrogenous wastes as uric acid.

  14. Fertilisation is internal.

  15. They are oviparous and the eggs are very yolky. Development is direct.

  16. E.g., Snakes, Turtles, Lizards, Crocodiles.

Also Read: Animal Kingdom

Classification of Reptilia

The class Reptilia is differentiated into three major sub-classes:

  • Anapsida

  • Parapsida

  • Diapsida


  • The dermal bones form a complete roof over the skull with no temporal fossae.

  • These are sub-divided into Cotylosauria and Chelonia.

  • Modern chelonians are classified according to the method of retracting the head in the shell.

  • Turtles, tortoises, and terrapins belong to this group.


  • These reptiles possess one temporal fossa present high up on the skull.

  • Protosaurs, Nothosaurs, Placodonts showed this type of skull.

  • The two largest groups among these were Ichthyosaurs and Plesiosaurus. These became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period when several other reptiles including dinosaurs died.


  • There are two temporal vacuities in the skull.

  • They are diverse of all reptiles.

  • The dinosaurs and pterosaurs are included in this group.

  • These are divided into two major groups- Archosauria and Lepidosauria.

  • Eg., Crocodilus, Chameleon

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Groups of Reptiles

The class Reptilia is further divided into different groups known as orders:



Order Squamata

Lizards, Snakes

Order Testudines

Turtles, Tortoises, Terrapins

Order Crocodilia

Crocodiles, Alligators

Order Sphenodontia


Extinct groups of class Reptilia

  • Ichthyopterygia

  • Lepidosauria

  • Archosauria

  • Synapsida


  • This group had one temporal fossa place high up on the skull.

  • The two largest groups belonging to this sub-class are Ichthyosaurs and Plesiosaurs.

  • Eg., Ichthyosaurus


  • These were all the lizard-like reptiles.

  • They had two temporal vacuities in the skull.

  • Eg., Youngina,


  • The skulls were diapsid.

  • Some were bipedal which gave rise to birds.

  • They also gave rise to dinosaurs.

  • Eg., Brontosaurus


  • They had one temporal fossa on the lower side of the skull.

  • These were the most dominant group of reptiles during the Permian period.

  • The surviving Lepidosaurs in the Mesozoic era gave rise to mammals. The rest were replaced by dinosaurs.

  • Eg., Plesiosaurus.

Also Read: Chordata

For more information on Class Reptilia, its characteristics, and classification keep visiting BYJU’S website or download BYJU’S app for further reference.

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