January 27, 2023

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The fossil sat in the museum drawer for 70 years.  The world has never seen such an ancient lizard

The fossil sat in the museum drawer for 70 years. The world has never seen such an ancient lizard

A surprising discovery was made at the Natural History Museum in London. After about 70 years, a forgotten fossil of an unidentified reptile from the late Triassic period (202 million years old) has been re-examined. It turns out that the researchers came across an exceptionally developed lizard. The event was reported by the British guardian.

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The fossil was collected in the field in the 1950s. The researcher was Pamela L. Robinson, who was exploring a quarry near Tortworth in Gloucestershire. The specimen has been kept in the museum’s archives for 70 years. Also with the wrong signature.

The fossil lizard has been forgotten for 70 years. Now it turns out to be a complete sensation

Researchers from the University of Bristol, after finding the specimen, conducted a CT scan of the fossil, thanks to which we were able to learn the exact anatomy of the Triassic animal. The creeper is named Microlanius cryptophranoids. Its body length was estimated at about 25 centimeters, and the mouth itself was only three centimeters. It was not a giant predatory specimen, but rather a representative of lizards with anatomy very similar to modern individuals.

It turns out that the fossil is the oldest example of a squamous reptile—something that includes lizards, snakes, and modern amphibians. This shifts the evolutionary history of these reptiles to at least 35 million years ago – the previous oldest fossil of scales came from the Middle Jurassic period (167 million years ago).

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This was determined by analyzing the bones of the skull. Cryptovaranoides microlanius can open its jaws surprisingly wide. Michael J. Benton of the University of Bristol, who co-authored a paper on the topic on which it appeared Science advancessuggested the need for further research of valuable and hitherto unknown fossils that would solve the mystery of the evolution of squamous reptiles:

If the identification of the fossil as a modern-day lizard is correct, it means that this reptile began to diversify during the Triassic period along with some older dinosaurs and mammals. It also proves that fossils of vital importance are still hiding somewhere, whether in the field waiting to be discovered or in museum collections yet to be explored.

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