A team of scientists recently analyzed the fossilized remains of Jesus lizard that lived more than 49 million years ago. They hope that by studying the prehistoric reptile they would find more about the environment of American West.
The study about the Jesus lizard fossils was conducted by a team of scientists from the American Museum of Natural History. They believe that this species of Jesus lizard, Babibasiliscus alxi, is one of the first members belonging to a group of lizards known as Corytophanidae. By studying this ancient creature, the scientists hope to learn more about the prehistoric environment.
This species of lizard earned the name of “Jesus” lizard because of its special skill of running on water. The reptile shares its evolutionary history with iguanas and chameleons, but biologists know very little about its past due to the lack of fossils.
Jack Conrad, a scientist at the American Museum of Natural History and one of the authors of the paper, said that prior to this, not very much was known about the family tree of this species of Jesus lizard. Conrad explained that until 10 years ago, biologists assumed that this group of lizards lived only in Central America, mostly because all known existing species were found in countries like Mexico.
According to the findings of the new study, members of the Jesus lizard group also lived in the U.S more than 49 million years ago. Scientists found that this particular lizard group is actually much older than it was previously believed and lived in different regions of the world. While studying the Babibasiliscus alxi, the researchers also described another Jesus lizard, one that is called Geiseltaliellus and lived more than 42 million years ago in what is now known as Germany. This suggests that this lizard group lived in most parts of the Northern Hemisphere in the distant past.
The study revealed that there are similarities between the modern lizards and the prehistoric ones. For example, the Jesus lizard of prehistoric times was about the same size as the modern-day ones; it had long legs and a crest on its head.
The researchers believe that the fossils of this Jesus lizard, which was discovered in Wyoming, could help them better understand the weather conditions of the region of that period, when it was believed to have been about ten degrees warmer than today.
The findings of the new study were published in the journal PLOS ONE.
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