This reptile is ancestor to all the world's snakes and lizards


To better understand both the anatomy of Megachirella wachtleri and the earliest evolution of squamates, the team assembled the largest reptile dataset ever created, using fossils and living specimens from more than 130 lizards and snakes from around the world.

"This discovery provides valuable information for understanding the evolution of both living and extinct squamates", Simões said.

At the same time, this implies that the squamate group had already split from other ancient reptiles prior to the Permian/Triassic extinction which took place about 252 million years ago and had survived it.

"This study, along with others that try to understand fundamental aspects of evolution. will hopefully draw back people's curiosity and attention to the natural world and how it has been changing for hundreds of millions of years".

It was here in the early 2000s that paleontologists discovered a beautifully preserved fossil resembling a lizard-like reptile, which was dubbed Megachirella wachtleri.

Lizards and snakes belong to a family of animals called squamates, and today there are nearly 10,000 different species slithering around the world's deserts, backyards, forests and mountains.

The scientists discovered that a tiny bone of Megachirella's jaw is only characteristic to the scaly family, the so-called squamate group of reptiles.

Apart from that, with the new study, a new technology has also come to the front, i.e., micro CT scanning.

The famous Dolomites mountain range in Italy's north is home to huge swathes of exposed rock, some of which is sand and clay that dates back to around 240 million years ago.

When megachirella walked the Earth, in the middle Triassic period, the world's land masses were crushed together in a supercontinent called Pangaea.

The mother of all lizards that was discovered in Italian Alps belongs to the Megachirella family of creatures.

They combined the new data with CT scans, revealing that Megachirella wachtleri was actually the oldest known squamate.

An global team of researchers have recently been poring over a Megachirella fossil found back in 2003, and have now been able to confirm that the species is the oldest known lizard, which lived 240 million years ago during the Triassic period.

"It's confirming that we are pretty much clueless". "In terms of the information that it gives us on the evolution of snakes and lizards".