Science

240 million year-old ‘mother of all lizards’ found

240 million year-old ‘mother of all lizards’ found”

The fossil of the Megachirella died in the Dolomites during a thunderstorm in the area.

"Megachirella provides unique insights into the early acquisition of squamatan features, as it is the first unequivocal squamate from the Triassic", the study reads.

Speaking with Live Science, lead study author Tiago Simões, a doctoral candidate in biological sciences at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, said the lizard needed further attention to determine its significance.

An worldwide team of paleontologists, which includes the University of Bristol, have identified the world's oldest lizard, providing key insight into the evolution of modern lizards and snakes.

There are about 10,000 species of squamates around the world, and scientists say they are still learning about the early stages of the animals' evolution.

As it turns out, the Megachirella is the ancestor of squamates, which is the class that both snakes and lizards belong in now.

Researchers were able to identify the fossil as Megachirella after performing a detailed analysis of the fossil.

Paleontologist Christy Hipsley has noted that this particular form of 3-D scanning is not only non-invasive but that it has the awesome ability to allow scientists to fully explore areas of fossils that they wouldn't ordinarily be able to observe. When he discovered Megachirella, he was shocked to see how it resembled a lizard, although it was much older than all the lizards discovered yet.

Move over Godzilla. There's a new "mother of all lizards" in town. He added, "I used this dataset... to conduct the phylogenetic analysis presented in this study". Originally, it had been misclassified as a different lizard relative. It rewrote the story of life on Earth.

Given the large gap between Megachirella and other squamates that lived 168 million years ago, there is significant work to be done to understand what ancient lizards and snakes looked like. A researcher at the University of Adelaide and the Natural History Museum in London, Marc Jones stated all the available evidence are properly examined. But some parts of the fossil, like the knee, ankle and key lizard features are missing in the study and it is quite disappointing.

Jones through a mail informed that lizards are highly diversified species and also come under major ecological group.

Simoes' colleague and study co-author Michael Caldwell likened the Megachirella fossil to "a virtual Rosetta Stone in terms of the information it gives us on the evolution of snakes and lizards". These new findings will help them to narrow down the reptile's evolutionary tree lineage.



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