World's oldest lizard fossil discovered

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Till now, the oldest lizard fossils that have discovered are belonged from the Jurassic period, around 170 million years ago.

Paleontologists assumed that the first reptiles appeared 180 million years ago, but scientists have examined fossils of megaceryle 240 million years old and found that she is the oldest ancestor of squamates.

This Megachirella fossil thus pulls our evolutionary timeline of lizards back by 75 million years, since there was no prior evidence that any were alive back then. 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.

Scientists say they have identified the world's oldest lizard fossil - a discovery that sheds light on the evolution of lizards and snakes.

"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", said Tiago Simoes, PhD student from the University of Alberta in Canada.

Paleontologists thought it was linked to - but not an ancestor of - modern lizards and snakes.

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This particular fossil, study co-author Michael Caldwell of the University of Alberta told AFP, is something of a Rosetta stone for the evolution of snakes and lizards. It is the oldest of its kind thereby aiding the scientists' research work on this species to a considerable extent.

Researchers said that the findings closed the gap between the oldest known squamates and the estimated origins of this reptile group derived from molecular data, according to Live Science. Simões concludes that the information they got from the fossil can help them understand the transition "from general reptile features to more lizard-like features".

Apart from that, with the new study, a new technology has also come to the front, i.e., micro CT scanning.

"Now it became possible to actually assess the relationship of not only this species but also of other species of reptiles".

The famous Dolomites mountain range in Italy's north is home to huge swathes of exposed rock, some of which is sand and clay that dates back to around 240 million years ago.

"It's confirming that we are pretty much clueless". It is a very primitive specimen of a creature from which the lizards and snakes of today ultimately evolved.

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