Human beings share their spaces 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 these creatures.
Paleontologists from the 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. This lizard, which has been named Magnuviator ovimonsensis, lived around 75 million years ago.
The lead author of the study detailing the lizard's characteristics, David DeMar, noted that it's a little unusual to unearth a completely fossilized skeleton of such a small creature.
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 lizard biodiversity and the animal's activity in the complex ecosystem during the Cretaceous period.
After running a complete analysis of the Magnuviator skeleton, experts determined that the creature was 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 basilisks.
The Magnuviator ovimonsensis 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 Egg Mountain.
The study also involved two rounds of CT scans. One was done at the Seattle Children's Hospital while the other conducted 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.
New Ancient Lizard Species
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," said DeMar.
He added that Magnuviator ovimonsensis were not plant eaters since it did not possess the significant metabolism required to digest any plant material.
Regardless of the lizard's diet, researchers have hypothesized that the species may have gone extinct almost during the same time as the avian dinosaurs.
The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.