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The pygopodid radiation: diverse diets and the 'pygopodids got there first' hypothesis (gekkotans part X)

The previous article - part of my now lengthy series on gekkotan squamates (see links below) - provided an introduction to the neat and fascinating near-limbless Australasian gekkotans known as the pygopodids. Disclaimer: the group being discussed here is 'Pygopodidae of tradition', not Pygopodidae as currently formulated. More on this matter later.

One topic that I didn't explore fully in the previous article is pygopodid diversity. These reptiles aren't all samey little generalists; species within the group practise several different lifestyles and foraging behaviours, and the amount of morphological variation present within Pygopodidae is impressive [composite above shows Burton's snake-lizard (l) and Ophidiocephalus (r) at top: both by Stewart Macdonald, used with permission. Common scaly-foot Pygopus lepidopodus below by Peter Woodardlong, from wikipedia]. As we'll see below, it may in fact be that pygopodids evolved and diversified early enough to 'beat' a far larger, far more widespread group of squamates - snakes - into the occupation of several ecological roles.

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