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Tetrapod Zoology

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    Darren Naish Darren Naish is a science writer, technical editor and palaeozoologist (affiliated with the University of Southampton, UK). He mostly works on Cretaceous dinosaurs and pterosaurs but has an avid interest in all things tetrapod. His publications can be downloaded at He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at! Follow on Twitter @TetZoo.
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  • Cricetomyines: the African pouched rats and mice

    Beautiful rendition of Cricetomys gambianus by Willems van der Merwe, used with permission.

    Sometimes, I pick up Volume II of Walker’s Mammals of the World, go to page 1400 or 1500 or thereabouts and look at all the obscure Old World rats and mice. You might have done the same thing. If you have, you might have been left with the same general feeling as me: of being [...]

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    Chet Van Duzer’s Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps

    Front cover of Van Duzer's (2013) Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps.

    One of the most spectacular and visually fascinating Tet Zoo-related books of recent-ish months is Chet Van Duzer’s Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps, published in 2013 by the British Library. I said a few words about this book back in June 2013, and here (at last) is the proper review I’ve been promising. Lavishly [...]

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    Short-snouted, suction-feeding ‘proto-ichthyosaur’ sheds light on fish-lizard beginnings

    Mesozoic marine reptile 'super-clade' recovered by Motani et al. (2014) when they included aquatic adaptations in the data set. Image by Darren Naish.

    Regular readers will know that I have a major interest in ichthyosaurs, the so-called fish-lizards of the Mesozoic (see links below). As you’ll know if you keep your finger on the pulse of Mesozoic reptile news, last week saw the publication of a really interesting new animal from the Lower Triassic: the Chinese ‘proto-ichthyosaur’ Cartorhynchus [...]

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    Terrestriality, high-walking and dimorphic snout crests: phytosaurs part II

    Life-size model of the phytosaur Rutiodon at Dinosaur State Park, Connecticut. Image by Patrick Murphy, used with permission.

    Time for more phytosaurs. The previous article is probably required reading. Phytosaurs are (so far as we can tell) members of the great diapsid reptile clade Archosauriformes. After all, they have an antorbital fenestra and various other characteristic bony features of this group. Within this clade, they’ve usually been regarded as members of Archosauria – [...]

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    Phytosaurs, (mostly) gharial-snouted reptiles of the Triassic, part I

    Some representative phytosaur portraits. Top to bottom: Smilosuchus, xxxxx. Image by Darren Naish: available on merchandise at the Tet Zoo Redbubble shop!

    As I hope I’ve said several or many times, there are many, many, many tetrapod groups that have never, ever received coverage on Tet Zoo. I know, it’s shocking. Today I’m extracting a section of text from a major in-progress book project. It’s on phytosaurs because they are among the neglected – readers with good [...]

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    Sandfishes and kin: of sand-swimming, placentation, and limb and digit reduction (skinks part III)

    Captive Scincus scincus individuals - what neat and handsome animals they are. Images by HTO (at top) and Ltshears. Both images in public domain.

    In recent articles I’ve made an effort to review the skinks of the world and today – it’s a momentous occasion – we see the last part of this series. I hope it’s clear that the Tet Zoo skink ‘review’ is very much a simple summary: it really doesn’t do justice to the full diversity [...]

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    Conservation concern for South America’s remarkable endemic dogs

    Bush dog pair; photo by Attis, CC BY-SA 3.0

    Last year the Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia volume titled Extinct Life appeared in print. I was asked to cover South American mammals, perhaps because they wanted me to write about borhyaenoids, toxodonts, litopterns, astrapotheres and so on (some of which have been covered on Tet Zoo in the past – I really need to get back [...]

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    ‘Shanklin croc’ and the dawn of the tethysuchian radiation

    The three crocodylomorph groups originally assembled in the 'longirostrine clade' by Clark (in Benton & Clark 1988). Thalattosuchia includes two group: teleosaurids and metriorhynchoids.

    Hey, Darren, how’s it going with that plan to discuss all the fossil crocodylomorph groups? Huh? Well, ha ha, it ain’t going so well… goddam life getting in the way of my blogging. But the publication of a new technical paper, co-authored by myself and colleagues and led by marine crocodylomorph guru Mark Young, gives [...]

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    Terror skinks, social skinks, crocodile skinks, monkey-tailed skinks… it’s about skinks (skinks part II)

    Criminally simplified depiction of lygosomine skink phylogeny (topology mostly based on Pyron et al. 2013). Photos (top to bottom) by Wolfgang Wuster, H. Zell, $Mathe94$, Benjamint444 (all CC BY-SA 3.0), Mark Stevens (CC BY 2.0), W.A. Djatmiko, S. Caut et al. (both CC BY-SA 3.0).

    October 2014 continues – for no particular reason at all – to be Lizard Month here at Tet Zoo and right now it’s time for more skinks. The previous article is a sort of general introduction to the group as well as a review of the limbless acontiines/acontids and weird feylinines. This time, we move [...]

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    Skinks skinks skinks (part I)

    A Tiliqua montage. At top: Blotched blue-tongue (T. nigrolutea) (photo by Benjamin444, CC BY-SA 3.0). Below: A Shingleback (T. rugosa) (photo by Jarrod, CC-BY-2.0).

    Skinks (properly Scincidae… though read on) are one of the most successful of squamate groups, accounting for approximately 1500 species – in other words, for about 25% of all lizards. Skinks occur on all continents (except Antarctica) as well as on numerous island groups. Extant species range from less than 10 cm in total length [...]

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