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WHAT! Scientists have found a 240-million-year-old fossil to track dinosaurs!

by Unik Dhandhi, Saturday, July 28, 2018

Unlike Jurassic World, the real world is no more home to the exquisite creatures 'Dinosaurs'. But a couple of millions-of-years earlier, dinosaurs ruled on our planet.

And still we lack sufficient information about the reptiles. From Cobras to Iguanas; there are infinite species of reptiles surrounding the world for which the research has yet just begun. Recently, a team of scientists discovered a three-inch, 240-million-year-old fossil — and an exciting new clue in this evolutionary mystery, 'Megachirella wachtleri'.

Being referred to as the 'mother of all lizards', Megachirella is the ancestor of all the dinosaurs. A paleontologist at the University of Alberta, Tiago Simoes and his colleagues led the research in Italy.

As per the research, the newly-found fossil will help in explaining the transition between the primitive and larger reptiles. “It's almost a virtual Rosetta stone in terms of the information that it gives us on the evolution of snakes and lizards,” said Michael Caldwell a paleontologist at the University of Alberta.

Megachirella's partial skeleton was discovered by an amateur fossil hunter in the Dolomite mountains of northern Italy and first described by scientists in 2003. But, limited by the technology of the time and an incomplete understanding of the squamate order, researchers were not quite sure how the new species fit into the reptile family tree.

Finally after 15 years, high-resolution micro CT scanning helped in studying the specimen in a more fruitful manner. Simoes and his team found unique features in the specimen. Researchers found evidence of vestigial traits that more modern squamates have since lost (a small cheek bone called the quadratojugal and primitive belly bones called gastralia) which are absent in the present day species.

Simoes added: “For the first time, having that information with this highly expanded data set, now it became possible to actually assess the relationship of not only this species but also of other species of reptiles.”

It is being reported by the scientists that when Megachirella walked on the planet then at that time, flowers has not evolved, and the ground was dominated by primitive plants called lycopods.

Simoes concluded by saying: “It’s confirming that we are pretty much clueless. But 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.”

Let us hope that in no time, we will be able to track the precise evolutionary stages of the reptilian family. Stay tuned for more facts related updates


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