We investigate local lizard richness and distribution in central Brazilian Cerrado, harbouring one of the least studied herpetofaunas in the Neotropical region. Our results are based on standardized samplings at 10 localities, involving 2917 captures of 57 lizard species in 10 families. Local richness values exceeded most presented in earlier studies and varied from 13 to 28 species, with modal values between 19 and 28 species. Most of the Cerrado lizard fauna is composed of habitat-specialists with patchy distributions in the mosaic of grasslands, savannas and forests, resulting in habitat-structured lizard assemblages. Faunal overlap between open and forested habitats is limited, and forested and open areas may act as mutual barriers to lizard distribution. Habitat use is influenced by niche conservatism in deep lineages, with iguanians and gekkotans showing higher use of forested habitats, whereas autarchoglossans are richer and more abundant in open habitats. Contrary to trends observed in Cerrado birds and large mammals, lizard richness is significantly higher in open, interfluvial habitats that dominate the Cerrado landscape. Between-localities variation in lizard richness seems tied to geographical distance, land- scape history and phylogenetic constraints, factors operating in other well-studied lizard faunas in open environments. Higher richness in dominant, open interfluvial habitats may be recurrent in Squamata and other small-bodied vertebrates, posing a threat to conservation as these habitats are most vulnerable to the fast, widespread and ongoing process of habitat destruction in central Brazil.
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