Exciting news for paleontologists! The first-ever lizard in transition to a snake has been found, offering a window into the history of evolution.
Paleontology enthusiasts, take note!
Ninety-five million years ago, there lived a creature with stubs for legs that would today be found and offer clues on how lizards may have morphed into snakes. Scientists are ecstatic because this is the first lizard that has been found in a transitional state, evolving from a four-legged lizard into a snake.
The weird, wonderful creature called Adriosaurus microbrachisis a cousin to the line of lizards that are closely related to snakes. Ancestors of most animals were aquatic, and this the earliest record we have of marine lizards that shed their limbs to eventually become snakes.
The report is found in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, and it describes a slithery lizard with a small head a willowy body that measured from 10-12 inches from nose to tail. Large rear limbs perhaps made up for missing forearms and front fingers of the lizards we now know.
“It adds to the picture we have of what was happening 100 million years ago,” said lead researcher Michael Caldwell, a paleontologist at the University of Alberta, in Canada. “We now know that losing limbs isn't a new thing and that lizards were doing it much earlier than we originally thought.”
“It has been clear for centuries that snakes are tetrapods (four-legged vertebrates) that lost their limbs,” Caldwell told LiveScience. “The process and pattern of this limb-loss has remained a mystery for a long time.”
“What we have not had to this point is a fossil record of vestigial limbs in lizards,” Caldwell said. “This is the first.”