Short Communication

The first record of Wormian bones in lizards

Published in: African Journal of Herpetology
Volume 67, issue 2, 2018 , pages: 127–131
DOI: 10.1080/21564574.2017.1402094
Author(s): Lauren RudieSam Houston State University, United States, Patrick J. LewisSam Houston State University, United States


Wormian bones are accessory bones found between cranial elements. These rare bones vary greatly in size, shape and placement. Wormian bones are well-known in mammals, notably in humans and chimpanzees, but not in lizards. Here we examine the genus Zygaspis, a southern African amphisbaenian with complex cranial sutures, for the presence of Wormian bones. Skulls from seven of the eight species of Zygaspis were examined for the presence of Wormian bones. Because of their small size, complex sutures and delicate nature, high-resolution X-ray computed tomography was used to produce 3D models of the skulls. We discovered three Wormian bones in the interdigitated frontoparietal suture of Z. kafuensis. This discovery is the first known record of Wormian bones in a lizard and it is one of the few reports of them in the Squamata. The presence of Wormian bones in a head-first, burrowing squamate allows for a possible functional role to be hypothesised. Additional studies on a variety of squamate taxa are now needed, particularly in burrowing groups with interdigitated sutures, to improve our understanding of these rare cranial elements.

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