Reptiles are tetrapod animals in the class Reptilia, comprising today's turtles, crocodilians, snakes, amphisbaenians, lizards, tuatara, and their extinct relatives. The study of these traditional reptile orders, historically combined with that of modern amphibians, is called herpetology.
In 1956, D.M.S. Watson observed that the first two groups diverged very early in reptilian history, so he divided Goodrich's Protosauria between them. He also reinterpreted Sauropsida and Theropsida to exclude birds and mammals, respectively. Thus his Sauropsida included Procolophonia, Eosuchia, Millerosauria, Chelonia (turtles), Squamata (lizards and snakes), Rhynchocephalia, Crocodilia, "thecodonts" (paraphyletic basal Archosauria), non-avian dinosaurs, pterosaurs, ichthyosaurs, and sauropterygians.
The oldest known animal that may have been an amniote is Casineria (though it may have been a temnospondyl). A series of footprints from the fossil strata of Nova Scotia dated to 315 Ma show typical reptilian toes and imprints of scales. These tracks are attributed to Hylonomus, the oldest unquestionable reptile known. It was a small, lizard-like animal, about 20 to 30 centimetres (7.9 to 11.8 in) long, with numerous sharp teeth indicating an insectivorous diet. Other examples include Westlothiana (for the moment considered a reptiliomorph rather than a true amniote) and Paleothyris, both of similar build and presumably similar habit.
The parareptiles, whose massive skull roofs had no postorbital holes, continued and flourished throughout the Permian. The pareiasaurian parareptiles reached giant proportions in the late Permian, eventually disappearing at the close of the period (the turtles being possible survivors).
Some squamate species (e.g., pythons and monitor lizards) have three-chambered hearts that become functionally four-chambered hearts during contraction. This is made possible by a muscular ridge that subdivides the ventricle during ventricular diastole and completely divides it during ventricular systole. Because of this ridge, some of these squamates are capable of producing ventricular pressure differentials that are equivalent to those seen in mammalian and avian hearts.
Crocodilians actually have a muscular diaphragm that is analogous to the mammalian diaphragm. The difference is that the muscles for the crocodilian diaphragm pull the pubis (part of the pelvis, which is movable in crocodilians) back, which brings the liver down, thus freeing space for the lungs to expand. This type of diaphragmatic setup has been referred to as the "hepatic piston". The airways form a number of double tubular chambers within each lung. On inhalation and exhalation air moves through the airways in the same direction, thus creating a unidirectional airflow through the lungs. A similar system is found in birds,monitor lizards and iguanas.
Many turtles, tortoises, and lizards have proportionally very large bladders. Charles Darwin noted that the Galapagos tortoise had a bladder which could store up to 20% of its body weight. Such adaptations are the result of environments such as remote islands and deserts where water is very scarce. Other desert-dwelling reptiles have large bladders that can store a long-term reservoir of water for up to several months and aid in osmoregulation.
Many lepidosaurs have a photosensory organ on the top of their heads called the parietal eye, which are also called third eye, pineal eye or pineal gland. This “eye” does not work the same way as a normal eye does as it has only a rudimentary retina and lens and thus, cannot form images. It is however sensitive to changes in light and dark and can detect movement.