Developmental Morphology and Evolution of Extraembryonic Membranes of Lizards and Snakes (Reptilia, Squamata)

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Amniote embryos are supported and nourished by a suite of tissues, the extraembryonic membranes, that provide vascular connections to the egg contents. Oviparous reptiles share a basic pattern of development inherited from a common ancestor; a vascular chorioallantoic membrane, functioning as a respiratory organ, contacts the eggshell and a vascular yolk sac membrane conveys nutrients to the embryo. Squamates (lizards, snakes) have evolved a novel variation in morphogenesis of the yolk sac that results in a unique structure, the yolk cleft/isolated yolk mass complex. This structure is a source of phylogenetic variation in architecture of the extraembryonic membranes among oviparous squamates. The yolk cleft/isolated yolk mass complex is retained in viviparous species and influences placental architecture. The aim of this paper is to review extraembryonic membrane development and morphology in oviparous and related viviparous squamates to explore patterns of variation. The survey includes all oviparous species for which data are available (11 species; 4 families). Comparisons with viviparous species encompass six independent origins of viviparity. The comparisons reveal that both phylogeny and reproductive mode influence variation in extraembryonic membrane development and that phylogenetic variation influences placental evolution. Models of the evolution of squamate placentation have relied primarily on comparisons between independently derived viviparous species. The inclusion of oviparous species in comparative analyses largely supports these models, yet exposes convergent patterns of evolution that become apparent when phylogenetic variation is recognized.