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

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

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

Known as Megachirella wachtleri, this ancient lizard is the direct ancestor of 10,000 current species of reptiles (including lizards and snakes).

With this fossil, Simões now has new information that helps him fill the gap and see the transition "from general reptile features to more lizard-like features".

"This study, along with others that try to understand fundamental aspects of evolution. will hopefully draw back people's curiosity and attention to the natural world and how it has been changing for hundreds of millions of years".

While this 240 million-year-old reptile was indeed the mother of all lizards, it had a few peculiarities which set it apart as well.

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The new dating of this Megachirella means that lizards evolved more than 75 million years before they were first thought to have existed, according to Dr. Palci. The study also provided some important evidence which clearly suggests that Megachirella Wachtleri did not belong to other phylogenetic groups which were there during the same time.

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.

Lizards and snakes belong to a family of animals called squamates, and today there are nearly 10,000 different species slithering around the world's deserts, backyards, forests and mountains.

Co-author, Dr Michael Caldwell, also from the University of Alberta, added: "Fossils are our only accurate window into the ancient past".

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The research by scientists in Alberta - as well as in Australia, Italy and the United States - was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The fossil was discovered in 2003 by an amateur fossil hunter in Italy, in the Dolomite mountains. But some parts of the fossil, like the knee, ankle and key lizard features are missing in the study and it is quite disappointing. They put together the biggest ever reptile dataset to pinpoint Megachirella's place in the family tree.

Fifteen years later, high-resolution micro CT scanning made it possible to peer inside the rock holding the fossil and identify features concealed within.

Megachirella walked the Earth when the Earth's continents joined together into one land, called Pangaea.

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"It's confirming that we are pretty much clueless", Simões said of the new species.

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