Oldest Known Lizard 'Megachirella' From The Dinosaur Era Found in Italian Alps

Scientists finally find the 240-million-year-old 'mother of all lizards'

And yet scientists know surprisingly little about where all those geckos and vipers and iguanas and pythons came from.

Also, paleontologists have suggested that megaceryle inhabited the Earth 250 million years ago.

Previous studies on lizard fossils dated back the fossils to 75 million years ago.

"That's more time than there is between us and the dinosaurs, and we had no clue what was going on".

"It pushes the origin of lizards back 75 million years".

"Our new understanding of Megachirella is but a point in ancient time, but it tells us things about the evolution of lizards that we simply can not learn from any of the 9000 or so species of lizards and snakes alive today", said Michael Caldwell, also from the University of Alberta.

This fossil helps scientists link primitive reptiles to the diverse reptiles that exist today on our planet.

The fossil is not in ideal condition, as the tail and pelvis are missing.

"It's nearly a virtual Rosetta stone", said Caldwell, also a paleontologist at the University of Alberta, "in terms of the information that it gives us on the evolution of snakes and lizards".

Researchers initially thought the fossil, which was found in northern Italy's Dolomite Mountains, was related to but not actually a lizard.

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

Some of those features include the shape of bones in the brain, shoulder and trunk of the fossil.

The authors of the study stated they have given the paleontological world some kind of Rosetta Stone for reptile evolution and a fair beginning of the evolutionary tree.

"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", Simões explained to the AFP.

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

Findings reveal that Megachirella lived along shorelines.

Simões and his colleagues are still seeking evidence of megachirella's behavior.

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.

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.

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

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