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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the main characteristics of amniotes
  • Explain the difference between anapsids, synapsids, and diapsids, and give an example of each
  • Identify the characteristics of reptiles
  • Discuss the evolution of reptiles

The amniotes —reptiles, birds, and mammals—are distinguished from amphibians by their terrestrially adapted egg, which is protected by amniotic membranes. The evolution of amniotic membranes meant that the embryos of amniotes were provided with their own aquatic environment, which led to less dependence on water for development and thus allowed the amniotes to branch out into drier environments. This was a significant development that distinguished them from amphibians, which were restricted to moist environments due their shell-less eggs. Although the shells of various amniotic species vary significantly, they all allow retention of water. The shells of bird eggs are composed of calcium carbonate and are hard, but fragile. The shells of reptile eggs are leathery and require a moist environment. Most mammals do not lay eggs (except for monotremes). Instead, the embryo grows within the mother’s body; however, even with this internal gestation, amniotic membranes are still present.

Characteristics of amniotes

The amniotic egg is the key characteristic of amniotes. In amniotes that lay eggs, the shell of the egg provides protection for the developing embryo while being permeable enough to allow for the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen. The albumin, or egg white, provides the embryo with water and protein, whereas the fattier egg yolk is the energy supply for the embryo, as is the case with the eggs of many other animals, such as amphibians. However, the eggs of amniotes contain three additional extra-embryonic membranes: the chorion, amnion, and allantois ( [link] ). Extra-embryonic membranes are membranes present in amniotic eggs that are not a part of the body of the developing embryo. While the inner amniotic membrane surrounds the embryo itself, the chorion    surrounds the embryo and yolk sac. The chorion facilitates exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the embryo and the egg’s external environment. The amnion    protects the embryo from mechanical shock and supports hydration. The allantois    stores nitrogenous wastes produced by the embryo and also facilitates respiration. In mammals, membranes that are homologous to the extra-embryonic membranes in eggs are present in the placenta.

Art connection

The illustration shows an egg with the shell, embryo, yolk, yolk sac, and the extra-embryonic membranes
The key features of an amniotic egg are shown.

Which of the following statements about the parts of an egg are false?

  1. The allantois stores nitrogenous waste and facilitates respiration.
  2. The chorion facilitates gas exchange.
  3. The yolk provides food for the growing embryo.
  4. The amniotic cavity is filled with albumen.

Additional derived characteristics of amniotes include waterproof skin, due to the presence of lipids, and costal (rib) ventilation of the lungs.

Evolution of amniotes

The first amniotes evolved from amphibian ancestors approximately 340 million years ago during the Carboniferous period. The early amniotes diverged into two main lines soon after the first amniotes arose. The initial split was into synapsids and sauropsids. Synapsids include all mammals, including extinct mammalian species. Synapsids also include therapsids, which were mammal-like reptiles from which mammals evolved. Sauropsids include reptiles and birds, and can be further divided into anapsids and diapsids. The key differences between the synapsids, anapsids, and diapsids are the structures of the skull and the number of temporal fenestrae behind each eye ( [link] ). Temporal fenestrae are post-orbital openings in the skull that allow muscles to expand and lengthen. Anapsids have no temporal fenestrae, synapsids have one, and diapsids have two. Anapsids include extinct organisms and may, based on anatomy, include turtles. However, this is still controversial, and turtles are sometimes classified as diapsids based on molecular evidence. The diapsids include birds and all other living and extinct reptiles.

Questions & Answers

What is cytoplasm
Nitta Reply
Parasitic adaptation of tapeworm
Angela Reply
Describe osmoregulator or osmoconformers and how these tools allow animals to adapt to different environment.
Alick Reply
describe the secondary function of a leaf to a plant.
Twizera Reply
hi I'm asking a question about HIV infection, can HIV infection transmitted from Mother to unbron child? please help me I So confused.
Khushboy Reply
no it can't
yes it can but their is an injection that can be used to prevent it.
Ahmad how no?
Hi im new
no, unless when giving birth
it is can be transmitted but there is an injection that the mother is injected to prevent the disease
I agree with nia
what is the difference between primary and secondary active transport in detail? I didn't understand the steps in the textbook specifically
Fathima Reply
you are a doctor?
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Mohammed Reply
what are the characteristics of living things
Owolo Reply
what's the meaning of connective tissue?
Reproduction, adaptation, interaction, movement, growth, respiration, made of cells, responsive to environment (homeostasis), metabolic action (consumption of food converted into energy)
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Eliza Reply
what are the two types of electron microscope
Sharlom Reply
light microscope and early microscope
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Nkoue Reply
Your welcome sir
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Transcription is making RNA from DNA. Translation is going from RNA to proteins.
full meaning of RNA and DNA
Nkoue what homeostits means?
Mohammed khalfan, In biology, homeostasis is the state of steady internal, physical, and chemical conditions maintained by living systems.[1] This dynamic state of equilibrium is the condition of optimal functioning for the organism and includes many variables, such as body temperature and fluid bal
what is the definition of enzymes
Royd Reply
enzymes are biological catalyst that speed up chemical reaction.
What are enzymes?
Enzymes are made of proteins and lower the energy of activation. In other words, they bring things together which helps to lower the amount of energy for a reaction to go forward.
they are catalyses that speeds up chemical reaction.... e.g they break down the food we consume.
These are catalyst that speeds up the chemical reaction.
What is connective tissue?
what homeostits means ?
what is a spirogyra
Talabi Reply
Spirogyra is a filamentous chlorophyte green algae of the order Zygnematales. It is named for the helical or spiral arrangement of the chloroplasts. That is characteristic of the genus. It is commonly found in freshwater habitats. And there are more than 400 species of Spirogyra in the world.
what is the mean of biology
Bello Reply
what is cell
A cell is the smallest living unit.
Hi I'm new in this group can someone please help with the list features shared by plants and charopytes that are not shared with most other eukaryotes
iz a basic units of a living thing?
what is eutrophication
Chinaza Reply
hi.. I'm asking a question about HIV infection.... Can HIV infection transmitted from Mother to unbron child?
Eutrophication is an enrichment of water by nutrient salts that causes structural changes to the ecosystem such as: increased production of algae and aquatic plants, depletion of fish species, general deterioration of water quality and other effects that reduce and preclude use.

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