"Jesus lizards" just became a little more diverse following the discovery of a 48-million-year-old fossil found in Wyoming. These creatures get their biblical name from the fact they are able to walk on water.

Babibasiliscus alxi is believed to be the oldest-known member of Corytophanidae, popularly known as Jesus lizards. This group of animals also includes familiar creatures, such as chameleons and iguanas. However, few fossils of these animals have ever been recovered, so many questions about the species remain in the minds of biologists.

Modern-day Jesus lizards live in warm regions of Central and North America, from Columbia up through central Mexico. Fossils of animals that currently live in tropical regions are often found in areas that exhibit temperate climates. These provide evidence that many areas around the globe were once much warmer than they are in our modern age. Wyoming was likely 16 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than today at the time B. alxi walked the Earth.

"Given our current period of global climate fluctuation, looking to the fossil record offers an important opportunity to observe what is possible, and may give us an idea of what to expect from our dynamic Earth," Jack Conrad of the American Museum of Natural History said.

Like human beings, B. alxi was likely diurnal, remaining active during the day and sleeping at night. The ancient creatures also spent much of their time in trees, researchers concluded. It is likely that the two-foot-long B. alxi ate some plants and also hunted insects, fish, snakes and other lizards. Large cheekbones suggest the creatures may have also occasionally dined on larger prey as well.

Shade was provided for the eyes of B. alxi by a ridge acting like the visor of a baseball cap. The feature also gave the creatures a fearsome look. Teeth of the animals each possessed three tips, designed for efficient chewing of its chosen prey.

This ancient artifact was found in the the Bridger Formation, located in the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming. When this creature was alive during the Eocene Epoch, Wyoming exhibited a tropical environment, geologists have concluded. Researchers believe the animals skimmed across the surface of bodies of warm water. However, this conclusion is still uncertain, as researchers have not yet found evidence of the structure of its feet, which would provide evidence of its ability to skim across the surface of water.

Study of this ancient artifact could allow biologists and paleontologists to learn more about how climate change affects tropical species.

Study of the ancient lizard fossil was published in the journal PLOS One.

ⓒ 2021 TECHTIMES.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.