Research

240-Million-Year-Old Mother of All Lizards Found in Italian Alps

240-Million-Year-Old Mother of All Lizards Found in Italian Alps

The 240-million-year-old fossil, Megachirella wachtleri, is the most ancient ancestor of all modern lizards and snakes, known as squamates, a new study shows. Till now, the oldest lizard fossils that have discovered are belonged from the Jurassic period, around 170 million years ago.

The reptile order Squamata, which includes snakes, lizards and legless worm-looking creatures known as amphisbaenians, is the largest order of living land vertebrates on the planet. It is different than normal CT scan technology and using this one can study the parts of the fossil engrafted in the rock, for example, fossil's belly.

The discovery of this new fossil moves back the timeline for the emergence of lizards on Earth by 75 million years.

"I spent almost 400 days visiting more than 50 museums and university collections in 17 countries to collect data on fossil and living species of reptiles to understand the early evolution of reptiles and lizards". At present, the squamates around the globe amount to 10,000 types.

Not anymore though, since this 240 million-year-old reptile which is the mother of all lizards has appeared on the scene. This new knowledge of Megachirella's anatomy, along with their comprehensive new dataset, enabled the scientists to accurately place the fossil in the reptile family tree. Talking more about this Simoes informed that it can remove the rocks digitally.

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Scientists have unearthed a finger-sized fossilized reptile in the Italian Alps, which is now treated as the mother of all reptiles and the oldest reptile ever discovered. It is the oldest of its kind thereby aiding the scientists' research work on this species to a considerable extent. But the oldest known squamate fossil was about 70 million years younger than that.

"Fossils are our only accurate window into the ancient past", Caldwell, a coauthor of the study, said in the university's statement.

This study has now started to fill the fossil gap between the ancient origin and the modern members.

The researchers also noted that for the first time, "orphological and molecular data are in agreement regarding early squamate evolution, with geckoes-and not iguanians-as the earliest crown clade squamates". Simoes stated that he spent around 400 days by visiting more than 50 museums and university collections in across 17 countries to evaluate the specimens to get an idea about the evolution of reptiles and lizards. They also found evidence of vestigial traits that more modern squamates have since lost - a small cheek bone called the quadratojugal and primitive belly bones called gastralia (which are found in many dinosaurs, too).