The Anatomical Record is Alive With Leapin' Lizards and Slitherin' Snakes


Are you aware that one of the earliest known transitional fossil form between lizards and snakes (Coniophis sp.) came from sites in Utah (Gardner and Cifelli, 1999) and Wyoming (Longrich et al., 2012). We, at The Anatomical Record, are proud of these discoveries in the intermountain West of the United States, in part because the editorial office has been located in Salt Lake City, UT since January 1, 2006. Our editorial board has twice taken advantage of the editorial office's locale to dig for bony and leafy treasures in the nearby Fossil Lake area, which dates to the Eocene. One among us (KHA) even discovered a yet-to-be-identified new species of plant. This paleobotanical discovery has been donated to Fossil Butte National Monument in Kemmerer, WY. If you are into fossils, particularly of fish, plants, and dinosaurs, then Fossil Butte National Monument and the Natural History Museum of Utah (Rio Tinto Center at the University of Utah) should be added to your bucket list! We also have practical rationale for being proud of this special issue. For a number of years when the gross anatomy laboratory at the University of Utah was housed in an old military barracks (obtained from the adjacent, historical Ft. Douglas), many medical and graduate students became all too familiar with our local snake populations. Great Basin rattlesnakes (Crotalus sp.) frequently sunned themselves on the front steps of the building, essentially holding the students and faculty hostage in the gross anatomy laboratory. Often to the rescue was a well-known plastic surgeon and part-time gross anatomy instructor: Dr. Clifford C. Snyder. Dr. Snyder was also a renowned expert on the toxicology of venomous snakes and surgical approaches to treat unfortunate outcomes of snake–human encounters. Dr. Snyder would calmly encourage the snakes to leave by nudging them along, perhaps explaining why he always wore leather cowboy boots! However, he also reminded me (SCM) to never be the third person out the front door because the first person would wake-up the snake, the second would get the snake agitated, and the third would get bit!

If you are into lizards and snakes, you definitely want to peruse the fascinating discoveries and descriptions that are published in this special issue of The Anatomical Record, guest-edited by Professor Juan D. Daza (Villanova University and Sam Houston State University). An additional hook to grab your attention is the cover illustration. It is original digital artwork of an extinct gecko drawn by paleoartist Stephanie Abramowicz specifically for this special issue.

If you are really into lizards and snakes, then we suggest that you also skirr and slink through more than 100 years of publications in The Anatomical Record. Why? Because the archive hosts nearly 100 papers about lizards and snakes, both extinct and extant. The earliest paper to appear between the covers of The Anatomical Record is by BW Kunkel in the 1915 issue (Kunkel, 1915). The topic of Kunkel's paper is the paraphysis and pineal region of the garter snake. Twenty years later, LT Evans reported the effect of Antuitrin S on the male lizard, Anolis carolinensis (Evans, 1935). Antuitrin S was a pregnancy-related endocrine compound extracted from urine of humans or whole pituitary glands of sheep by Parke Davis. Injection of Antuitrin S into young males during the winter months led to more courtship, coitus, and fighting behaviors, enlargement of the reproductive tract, faster movement, greater appetite, and more frequent molting. About a dozen more endocrinological studies are published during the remainder of the 1930s and the 1940s. Study subjects include horned lizards, garter snakes, geckos, fence lizards, and alligator lizards.

The second half of the 20th century saw an explosion of publications on lizards and snakes in The Anatomical Record. Topics include effects of controlled temperature and day length on gonadal development (Bartholomew, 1950), gross and microscopic anatomy of the liver and gall bladder (Ells, 1954), osteology and musculature (Evans, 1955; Bellairs and Bryant, 1968; Throckmorton, 1978; Throckmorton and Saubert, 1982; Rubolini et al., 2006; Hall, 2009; Payne et al., 2011; Direnzo and Stynoski, 2012), endocrine and reproductive biology (Miller, 1952; Fox, 1956; Cavazos and Feagans, 1960; Neaves, 1971; Jacobs and Sis, 1980; Rhoten and Hall, 1981; Rhoten, 1982; Jones et al., 1983; Jones and Summers, 1984; Moscona, 1990; Young et al., 1999), and neurobiology (Zika and Singer, 1965; Colborn and Adamo, 1969; Proske, 1969; Gundy and Wurst, 1976; Baird and Lowman, 1978; Sligar and Voneida, 1981; Yeager et al., 1983; Pannese et al., 1984; McDevitt et al., 1993; Amemiya et al., 1996). Among the endocrinology papers are three reports by long-time American Association of Anatomists' member William B. Rhoten, whose research focused on the pancreas of the garter snake (Rhoten and Hall, 1981; Rhoten, 1982, 1984). Other scientific topics covered by papers published between 1950 and 1999 in the Journal are cardiovascular biology (Prakash, 1960; Amemiya et al., 1999), tongue and mouth (Rabinowitz and Tandler, 1986, 1991; Toubeau et al., 1994; Iwasaki et al., 1996; Herrel et al., 1999, 1998), and the Harderian gland (Baccari et al., 1990; Rehorek, 1997). One of the Journal's Associate Editors J. P. Timmermans is co-author of one of the papers on tongue, specifically tongue flicking in agamid lizards (Herrel et al., 1998). Near and dear to our hearts are two papers on the lung (Maina et al., 1989) and its surfactant system (Wetzstein et al., 1980).

One of my (KHA) future mentors (during my postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco, UCSF) published a paper in The Anatomical Record in the year of my first breath. This future mentor was Malcolm R. Miller who, incidentally, was born in Salt Lake City in 1915. His endocrinology paper reported the normal histology and experimental alteration of the adrenal gland of the viviparous lizard, Xantusia vigilis (Miller, 1952). Rationale for his study was to investigate the role of the adrenal gland in regulation of water, mineral, protein, fat, and carbohydrate in non-mammalian vertebrates, about which little was known at the time. Malcolm published another paper in The Anatomical Record in 1987 (Miller and Beck, 1987), about 3 years after my postdoctoral fellowship was completed. His 1987 paper focused on heterotopic synaptic bodies in auditory hair cells in adult lizards. Among my fond memories of Malcolm and his wife, Jeanne (who together graduated with medical degrees from UCSF School of Medicine in 1945), is the terrariums of lizards that filled Malcolm's laboratory on the 13th floor of the medical school building.

Nearly half of the papers on lizards and snakes that are published in The Anatomical Record are reports from the beginning of the 21st century. This period of research brought studies of function in lizards and snakes to the Journal. Functional topics are binocular coordination of eye movement (King and Zhou, 2000), comparative functional analysis of hyolingual anatomy (Herrel et al., 2005), function of regenerating lymphatics (Blacker et al., 2007), and wound healing and regeneration (Delorme et al., 2012). Imaging also is used to gain new, 3-dimensional insights about the morphology of lizards and snakes (Hofstadler-Deiques et al., 2005; Costantini et al., 2010).

Finally, a number of contributors to the special issue on lizards and snakes have publication track records in The Anatomical Record. Dr. Daza, the guest editor, has two recent publications on lepidosaurs (Daza and Bauer, 2010; Daza et al., 2011). Dr. Virginia Abdala is a co-author of Dr. Daza's 2011 paper. Dr. Abdala and her team have two other publications that focus on the developmental basis of limb homology among lizards (Fabrezi et al., 2007) and the functional consequences of palmar tendons on grasping ability among lizards (Abdala et al., 2009). Dr. Bhart-Anjan S. Bhullar and colleagues have a previous paper on unusual abdominal musculature of squamate reptiles (Bhullar, 2009). Dr. Carlos Jared and Marta Maria Antoniazzi and coworkers have an earlier publication on the rudimentary eyes of squamate fossorial reptiles (Foureaux et al., 2010). Lastly, Dr. Anthony P. Russell and his team have two prior publications on development of the leopard gecko (Wise et al., 2009; Wise and Russell, 2010). We thank these repeat authors! We hope that all of the authors of this special issue will also find a home for their next research reports in The Anatomical Record.

We leave you with this wish: by reading the papers in this special issue, you will discover “what's so special about squamates,” as posited by Dr. Daza in his editorial that accompanies this special issue.

  • Kurt H. Albertine*

  • Editor-in-Chief The Anatomical Record

  • Scott C. Miller, Ph.D.

  • Associate Editor The Anatomical Record