They protect the skin beneath, first of all. They can also help resist moisture loss. In snakes, the belly scales help provide traction on the ground. Some reptiles, like alligators, have thick, hard, armor-like scales. Some, like leopard geckos, have pebbly skin without obvious scales. They’re generally a protective boundary between the animal and the outside world, though they can be specialized for a variety of ancillary purposes — such as camouflage or the rattle of the rattlesnake.
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