A team of paleontologists led by Ricardo Martinez of the National University of San Juan has found the ancestor of most modern lizards.
Lizards and snakes are a key component of most terrestrial ecosystems today. Lepidoptera, and these are all lizards and snakes, make up lepidosaurs – this is the largest group of terrestrial vertebrates on the planet, it includes about 11 thousand species.
Lepidosaurs have an extremely long evolutionary history that is older than dinosaurs. However, their early phase of evolution 260-150 million years ago remains not fully understood by scientists.
The authors of the new work, during excavations at the Upper Triassic geological formation of Ischigualasto in northwestern Argentina, found a perfectly preserved skull of a small reptile, which is 231.4 million years old.
They analyzed the find using microcomputer tomography and found out that this is a basal representative of the superorder of lepidosaurs. Other fossil species that belong to the same order are much worse preserved, so nothing can be said for sure about them.
Researchers gave the ancient reptile the scientific name Taytalura alcoberi. From its remains, paleontologists were able to understand how the evolution of the skull of lepidosaurs went. For example, the unique way the teeth of the taitalura are attached to the bones of the skull illustrates the transition from the attachment of teeth characteristic of other diapsids to that of lepidosaurs.