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Sauria Macartney, 1802
Lizards are a widespread group of squamate reptiles, with over 6,000 species, ranging across all continents except Antarctica, as well as most oceanic island chains. The group is paraphyletic as it excludes the snakes and Amphisbaenia; some lizards are more closely related to these two excluded groups than they are to other lizards. Lizards range in size from chameleons and geckos a few centimeters long to the 3 meter long Komodo dragon.
Most lizards are quadrupedal, running with a strong side-to-side motion. Others are legless, and have long snake-like bodies. Some such as the forest-dwelling Draco lizards are able to glide. They are often territorial, the males fighting off other males and signalling, often with brightly colours, to attract mates and to intimidate rivals. Lizards are mainly carnivorous, often being sit-and-wait predators; many smaller species eat insects, while the Komodo eats mammals as big as water buffalo.
Lizards make use of a variety of antipredator adaptations, including venom, camouflage, reflex bleeding, and the ability to sacrifice and regrow their tails.
The adult length of species within the suborder ranges from a few centimeters for chameleons such as Brookesia micra and geckos such as Sphaerodactylus ariasae to nearly 3 m in the case of the largest living varanid lizard, the Komodo dragon. Most lizards are fairly small animals.
Lizards typically have four legs, feet and external ears, though some are legless, while snakes lack these characteristics. Lizards and snakes share a movable quadrate bone, distinguishing them from the rhynchocephalians, which have more rigid diapsid skulls. Some lizards such as chameleons have prehensile tails, assisting them in climbing among vegetation.
As in other reptiles, the skin of lizards is covered in overlapping scales made of keratin. This provides protection from the environment and reduces water loss through evaporation. This adaptation enables lizards to thrive in some of the driest deserts on earth. The skin is tough and leathery, and is shed as the animal grows. Unlike snakes which shed the skin in a single piece, lizards slough their skin in several pieces. The scales may be modified into spines for display or protection, and some species have bone osteoderms underneath the scales.