Meet The 240 Million Year Old \'mother Of All Lizards\'

image
The image above shows an artist's rendition of the Megachirella wachtleri, a 240-million-year-old fossil researchers say is the oldest known ancestor of today's lizards and snakes.(University of Bristol/Davide Bonadonna)

At a Glance

  • Researchers have found what they believe is the "mother of all lizards."
  • Megachirella wachtleri, a 240-million-year-old fossil, is the oldest known ancestor of the reptiles we see today.
  • The fossil's discovery helps explain how ancient reptiles became the diverse group we see today.

The "mother of all lizards" has been discovered by an international team of researchers who say the find will provide key insight into how modern-day reptiles evolved.

Megachirella wachtleri, a 240-million-year-old fossil, is the oldest known ancestor of lizards and snakes, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature. Its discovery suggests the origins of today's reptiles, or squamates, date back further than scientists thought, beginning in the late Permian period over 250 million years ago.

"The specimen is 75 million years older than what we thought were the oldest fossil lizards in the entire world and provides valuable information for understanding the evolution of both living and extinct squamates," lead author and University of Alberta Ph.D. student Tiago Simões said in a release on the findings.

(MORE: Rat Invasion Shuts Down Islands Off Australia's Coast)

Megachirella was initially discovered in northern Italy's Dolomite Mountains in the early 2000s, but scientists were unable to find a way to categorize it among the thousands of known reptile species, according to the release. The researchers compared the fossil's anatomy to that of other early lizards and snakes and discovered it was the oldest known of their kind.

"At first I did not think Megachirella was a true lizard, but the empirical evidence uncovered in this study is substantial and can lead to no other conclusion," study co-author and Midwestern University researcher Dr. Randall Nydam said in the release.

Study co-author and University of Bristol researcher Dr. Massimo Bernardi told the Guardian that Megachirella likely lived along the shorelines of the Dolomites and was wiped out by a thunderstorm.

image
This image shows the Megachirella wachtleri fossil.(University of Bristol/MUSE - sScience Museum, Trento, Italy)

“At that time, geological reconstructions show us very clearly that the Dolomites were a series of islands with rich vegetation and fine sand beaches, and probably Megachirella was walking along one of those beaches,” said Bernardi. “[We think] it was taken by the thunderstorm because in the very same [rock] layers you see a lot of plants and debris and things that were coming from land into the sea."

The researchers discovered the fossil had distinct features in its collarbone, wrists and braincase that are unique to lizards, as well as other traits that have now been lost to the modern-day animals. For example, it had a cheekbone known as the quadratojugal, as well as belly bones known as gastralia, which were also discovered in various dinosaurs.

Though there are more than 10,000 identified lizard and snake species across the globe, not much has been known about their early evolutionary stages. The fossil's discovery helps explain how ancient reptiles became the diverse group we see today.

It’s confirming that we are pretty much clueless,” Simões told the Washington Post. “But on the positive side, we also have all this extra information in terms of the transition from more general reptile features to more lizard-like features.”

This news has been published by title Meet The 240 Million Year Old \'mother Of All Lizards\'

If the page you permission is mistake or not contact perfectly, keep busy visit the original web in source CLICK HERE

Thank you for your visit to our website, hopefully the guidance we convey is useful, do not forget to allocation and subscribe our web to acquire more information.

[TAG]961