• lepidosaurs;
  • hemipenis;
  • ornamentation;
  • limb reduction;
  • copulation


Calcified spines in the hemipenial surface occur convergently in several gymnophthalmid lizard species and in advanced snakes. Based on the pronounced degrees of limb reduction in these distantly related lineages, such hemipenial structures were suggested to play a functional role in couple-anchoring during copulation, partly assuming the function of the limbs during mating. Herein, we assessed the hemipenial morphology of virtually all the valid genera of the family Gymnophthalmidae to test for a phylogenetic correlation between limb reduction and the presence of calcified hemipenial spines. The occurrence of calcified structures was mapped on the two most comprehensive phylogenies of the family. We concluded that spiny hemipenes are by no means necessarily associated with reduction of limbs. Conversely, the presence of well-developed hemipenial spines in specific limb-reduced taxa does not allow one to disregard the possibility that in some instances such structures might indeed be functionally associated with couple-anchoring, improving the success of mating. Anat Rec, 297:482–495, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.