The mother of all lizards found in Italian Alps


HBO's "Game of Thrones" features a "Mother of Dragons", but a fossil that's hundreds of millions of years old was recently identified as the "mother of all lizards" (and snakes, too).

"It deserved further attention - especially in the form of CT [computed tomography] scanning - to provide greater anatomical details and an improved data set, to understand its placement in the evolutionary tree of reptiles", Simões told the trade website in an email. The disaster which occurred around 252 million years ago destroyed 96 percent of marine species and 70 percent of craniate. 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.

Megachirella, unearthed approximately 20 years ago from the compacted sand and clay bedrock of the Dolomite mountain in northeastern Italy, was mistakenly listed as a relative of modern-day lizards.

As said by the co-author of the study, Michael Caldwell, today there are near about ten thousand morder species of the squamate group, nevertheless, until now no one had any idea about their evolution.

"I spent almost 400 days visiting over 50 museums and university collections across 17 countries to collect data on fossil and living species of reptiles to understand the early evolution of reptiles and lizards", Tiago Simoes of the University of Alberta, and co-author of the study, explained.

Scientists used a new X-ray technology to examine parts of the fossil embedded within the rock to determine the species was in fact part of the lizard family based on head, shoulder and wrist features.

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This handout picture received via the Nature website on May 28, 2018 shows a life scene in the Dolomites region, Northern Italy, about 240 million years ago, with Megachirella wachtleri walking through the vegetation. Flowers had not evolved, and the ground was dominated by primitive plants called lycopods (ancestors of club mosses and quillworts).

The fossil is the size of a finger, and it was found in the Italian Alps.

They combined the new data with CT scans, revealing that Megachirella wachtleri was actually the oldest known squamate.

"It's confirming that we are pretty much clueless".

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