Aquatic reptiles are very diversified in the fossil record. The description and pooling of certain bone histological features (collagenous weave and vascular network) of the various groups of aquatic reptiles highlight what this histological information can tell us about the process of secondary adaptation to an aquatic life. Notably, they show the absence of interaction between these histological features on the one hand and body size, mode of swimming, type of microanatomical specialization and phylogeny on the other. These histological features in aquatic reptiles seem to essentially provide information about the growth rate and basal metabolic rate of these taxa. The growth rate seems to have been rather high in most marine reptiles, when compared with terrestrial ectotherms. Moreover, distinct metabolic abilities are suggested. Indeed, various groups probably displayed a peculiarly high body temperature, and some show trends towards endothermy. This study also emphasizes the crucial need for homologous comparisons in histology and shows that much remains to be done to better understand the relationship between histological features, growth rate and metabolism in extant taxa in order to make inferences in the fossil groups. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, ●●, ●●–●●.