Lizards fossilized for 100 million years provide missing evolutionary link

Science

It’s a story sounds straight out of  “Jurassic Park”: prehistoric animals trapped in amber are offering scientists a glimpse into the mid-Cretaceous period.A trove of lizards who were entombed in the resin of ancient trees nearly 100 million years ago was just donated to the American Museum of Natural History. Story continues below

“The fossilised amber provides a view into a lost world,” Edward Stanley, co-author of a study published in Science Advances on Friday told BBC News.The study used CT scanners to ‘digitally dissect’ the fossils, without damaging the amber droplets. The scans found that the fossilized lizards were a range of species similar to modern-day gekkos and chameleons which have filled in the evolutionary history of their species, according to the Smithsonian.The evolutionary history of lizards has been hard to document because of the tropical climates in which they live, Kevin de Queirox, curator of the curator of the reptile and amphibian collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.READ MORE: Canadian team discovers new lizard species in Brazil“The damp, hot climate in the tropics rarely preserves small and delicate fossils—unless the unfortunate creatures become trapped in tree resin,” de Queirox told the website.“This ancient group therefore paints a much more complete picture of minute mid-Cretaceous reptiles than scientists have seen before.”The fossils revealed how modern reptile features such as sticky toe-pads evolved.One of the lizards has even bridged a gap between the the “standard” lizard form and chameleons, Stanley told the BBC.“This ‘missing-link’ is roughly 80 million years older than the next oldest chameleon fossil, and shows that features like the chameleon’s projectile tongue was present deep in its ancestry.”The fossils were donated to the museum from private collections. They were originally found in a Burmese mine decades ago.

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