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Daza et al. Sci. Adv. 2016; 2: e1501080

Amber-entombed lizards shed light on Cretaceous diversity

Scientists searching through the collections of the American Museum of Natural History were pleased to discover a dozen lizards preserved in amber, Smithsonian reports. The spectacular fossils, dug up decades ago in mines in Myanmar, are all preserved in various states, with some even showing the fine details of scales and soft tissues. The fossils cover a range of lizards that lived 100 million years ago, showing that the Cretaceous tropics were as diverse as today’s, write the researchers today in Science Advances. They also include the oldest known fossil of a chameleon relative, beating the past winner by 80 million years. Most animals that get preserved as fossils are either large—like dinosaurs and mammoths—or shelly, like trilobites. Lizards, on the other hand, don’t hold up nearly as well—which is why the new amber-covered discovery is such a unique look into lizards’ evolutionary history.

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