CT scan reveals identity of ancient remains found years ago in the Italian Alps
MUSE - Science Museum, Trento, Italy
A little animal that washed out to sea 240 million years ago off the coast of what’s now Italy turns out to be the oldest known fossil of a lizard.
The identification pushes back the fossil record of snakes and lizards by about 75 million years, says Tiago Simões of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. He and colleagues used observations of the fossil, called Megachirella wachtleri, and of related living and extinct species plus genetic data to reconstruct the evolutionary history of squamates, the reptile group that today includes snakes and lizards, the researchers report in the May 31 Nature.
“Understanding lizard and snake evolution has been a constant problem in paleontology,” says vertebrate paleontologist Stephanie Pierce of Harvard University who worked on the issue years ago but wasn’t involved in the new study. The trouble comes largely from a