Extinct Reptile Fossil Discovered in Wyoming, Experts Say

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An artistic rendition of a recently discovered extinct species of lizard-like reptile belonging to the same ancient lineage as the living New Zealand tuatara.

The fossil of an extinct reptile that lived among dinosaurs 150 million years ago has been discovered in Wyoming, experts have said.

A team of scientists found the almost complete fossilaside from the tail and parts of the hind legs, in the state’s Morrison formation, according to a press release from the Smithsonian Institution.

“Even though it looks like a relatively simple lizard, it embodies a whole evolutionary epic dating back more than 200 million years,” Matthew Carrano, curator of Dinosauria at the National Museum of Natural History, said in the press release. .

The new species, Opisthiamimus gregori, is named after museum volunteer Joseph Gregor “who spent hundreds of hours meticulously scraping and chiseling bones from a block of stone that caught the attention of the fossil preparator of the Pete Kroehler Museum in 2010,” according to the institution.

The reptile, which likely lived on insects and other invertebrates, would have measured about 6 inches long from nose to tail “and would fit curled up in the palm of an adult human hand,” according to the institution.

The reptile belongs to the same “lineage as the living New Zealand tuatara,” the institution said, and exhibited some odd features, including “teeth fused to the jaw bone, a unique chewing motion that makes slide the lower jaw back and forth like a saw blade. , a lifespan of over 100 years and tolerance to colder climates.

Although it is a lizard, resembling a “particularly hardy iguana”, the species is not a lizard, the institution said. Instead, they are rhynchocephali.

Although it was found “almost worldwide” at one point, for unknown reasons the reptile disappeared as lizards and snakes became increasingly dominant, the institution said.

“These animals may have gone extinct partly because of competition from lizards, but possibly also because of global climate change and shifting habitats,” Carrano said.

To know exactly what happened to the species, more evidence is needed, according to Carrano, a story that fossils can help piece together.

This story was originally published September 21, 2022 1:47 p.m.

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