Evolution and role of the follicular epidermal gland system in non-ophidian squamates

in Amphibia-Reptilia
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Many lizard and amphisbaenian lineages possess follicular glands in the dermis of the inner thighs and/or the area anterior to the cloaca. These tubular glands produce a holocrine secretion that finds its way to the external world through pore-bearing scales (femoral and/or preanal pores). Secretions are composed of proteins and many lipophilic compounds that may function as chemosignals in lizard and amphisbaenian communication. In recent years, we have begun to develop an understanding of the adaptive significance of these secretions, and they are currently thought to play an important role in a variety of processes in these animals. While it appears that epidermal gland secretions function in intra- and interspecific recognition and territoriality, research has focused largely on their role in mate assessment. Despite these recent studies, our knowledge on the true role of the chemicals found in epidermal secretions remains poorly studied, and there are many possible avenues for future research on this topic. Here, we review the literature on the follicular epidermal glands of non-ophidian squamates and provide a first taxon-wide overview of their distribution.

Evolution and role of the follicular epidermal gland system in non-ophidian squamates

in Amphibia-Reptilia



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    Photomicrographs of (a) the ventral region of the thigh of a cordylid lizard, showing the patches of generation glands and a row of epidermal pores, and (b) a cross-section through a protruding multiple-layer type generation gland of Cordylus minor (both pictures obtained from Mouton, Flemming and Broeckhoven, 2014 with permission) (EP, epidermal pore; GG, generation gland; MG, mature generation layer). This figure is published in colour in the online version.

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    Picture of (a) the cloacal region of a male Lacerta agilis adult, showing epidermal pores with protruding secretion, and (b) a longitudinal section of a follicular epidermal gland of Amphisbaena alba (latter picture obtained from Antoniazzi et al., 1993 with permission) (EP, epidermal pore; GB, glandular body; S, secretion). This figure is published in colour in the online version.

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    Evolution of epidermal pores in non-ophidian squamates: a family overview. Phylogeny proposed by Pyron, Burbrink and Wiens (2013). Pie charts from the maximum likelihood analyses are shown for ancestors, with the proportion of black representing the likelihood of epidermal pores being present in this ancestor. Pie charts are marked with a minus symbol “–” (upper right side) when optimization is statistically not significant, all other nodes are significant. This figure is published in colour in the online version.


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