Davide Bonadonna

This reptile is ancestor to all the world’s snakes and lizards

Found in the early 2000s after 240 million years embedded in the mountains of northern Italy, a fossil known as Megachirella wachtleri has claimed the title of oldest-known species of the reptilian order Squamata, making it an ancestor of all the world’s lizards and snakes, as The Washington Post explains. Scientists have long been unsure of M. wachtleri’s place in the reptile family tree. Using the latest in computerized tomography scanning and comparisons to some 150 fossils of other lizard species, ancient and modern, paleontologists from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, have confirmed: Yes, this species is a true squamate. Their research appears today in Nature. Prior to this discovery, the earliest known squamate fossil was about 180 million years old, whereas genetic evidence suggests that the order originated more than 250 million years ago.

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