Meet Megachirella wachtleri, the ‘mother of all lizards’, who has just been discovered 240 million years after its existence in the Dolomite region of north Italy. This is possibly the oldest ancestor of thousands of vertebrates alive on planet today and sheds light on the evolution of reptiles. By Anuja Dixit

 

‘Mother of all lizards’ should be the new term on everyone’s mind right now. Scientists have just discovered an old fossil which is said to be the direct ancestor of more than 10,000 species of scaled reptiles known as ‘squamates’. Paleontologists have named this fossil  Megachirella wachtleri.

 

For those who don’t know “squamates” or “Squamata” is, the term refers to the species that are the second largest variant of extant vertebrates. Researchers used CT scan to build a 3D computer model to analyse the possible structure of the lizard and found two unique features: a part of the brain-case and a collarbone structure. Other than this, the molecular and skeletal traces throw light on geckoes (earliest squamate group to arise).

 

“It’s a fossil lizard that we found to be the oldest-known lizard on the planet,” said Tiago Simões, is a PhD student in the University of Alberta’s biological sciences department and the study’s lead author. He is said to have been done with most of his research, save a part in which he can predict Megachirella’s behaviour.

 

The research by scientists in Alberta, Australia, Italy, and the United States was published Wednesday in the journal called Nature. To conclude, Simoes said, “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.”