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Rare Lizard Fossil Found From Late Dinosaur Era

25 January 2017, 8:21 am EST By Andrew Norman Tech Times
An illustrated life reconstruction of Magnuviator ovimonsensis at the Egg Mountain site as it may have appeared in the Cretaceous Period 75 million years ago. One Magnuviator eats a wasp, and on the ground is a tooth from the bird-like dinosaur Troodon. The arid-adapted plant is based on fossil pollen found near Egg Mountain.  ( Misaki Ouchida )

Human beings share their place with lizards, they live in our gardens, garages and many other hidden corners in our homes. A new study now reveals that even dinosaurs had to share their world with this creature.

Paleontologists from University of Washington and the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture have gotten hold of a fossil skeleton of an ancient lizard from a dinosaur nesting site at the Egg Mountain in Montana.

The lead author of the study - David DeMar - noted that it's a little unusual to unearth a completely fossilized skeleton of such a small creature like a lizard.

This ancient lizard which was probably alive 75 million years ago has thorough descriptions laid down in a paper. The name of the paper is based on the species and is entitled Magnuviator ovimonsensis. 

The study aids  in comprehending and determining the evolution of lizards and how they increased in the age of dinosaurs.

Findings Of The Study

Various facets of the study have reshaped the view of scientists regarding the lizards' bio-diversity and its activity in the complex ecosystem during the Cretaceous Period.

After running a complete analysis of the skeleton of the Magnuviator ovimonsensis, experts opined that the creature happens to be an ancient offshoot of iguanian lizards. It also happens to be the oldest and most complete iguanian fossil from both North and South America.

In the modern world, iguanians imply chameleons, iguanas, anoles and the basilisks.

However, going by the Magnuviator ovimonsensis, it happens to be more of a distant relative of modern lizards which came into existence after the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs along with other lizards and creatures, 66 million years ago. The conclusion has been drawn after a rigorous study of the specimens unearthed from the Egg Mountain.

The study also involved two rounds of CT scans, one was held at the Seattle Children's Hospital while the other was at the American Museum of Natural History.

While the first scan was aimed at narrowing down the fossil location within the larger sections of the rock, the second one looked to determine the digital reconstruction of the skull's anatomy.

The study concluded that the Magnuviator ovimonsensis is a completely new species bearing a striking resemblance to the iguanians from the Cretaceous Period of Mongolia and not the fossil lizards from the Americas.

"These ancient lineages are not the iguanian lizards which dominate parts of the Americas today, such as anoles and horned lizards. So discoveries like Magnuviator give us a rare glimpse into the types of 'stem' lizards that were present before the extinction of the dinosaurs," says DeMar.

He added that Magnuviator ovimonsensis were not plant eaters since it did not possess the significant metabolism which was required to digest any plant material.

Regardless of its diet, researchers have hypothesized that the species may have gone extinct almost during the same time frame as the avian dinosaurs. 

The study has been published in the journal - Proceedings of the Royal Society B.  

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