Paleontologists have discovered a new but extinct species of lizards. They believe it to be the missing link which explains how these animals evolved through the centuries.
The fossil remains were found in Brazil, are about 80 million years old and belong to a species called Gueragama Sulamericana.
Michael Caldwell, professor of biological sciences over at the University of Alberta and study author, offered a statement informing that the new species is “a missing link in the sense of the paleobiogeography and possibly the origins of the group, so it’s pretty good evidence to suggest that back in the lower part of the Cretaceous, the southern part of Pangaea was still a kind of single continental chunk”.
Modern day iguanas have long puzzled researchers. There are two (2) different groups that they have not been able to link to one another until now. The Acrodontan Iguanians have teeth that are fused right at the top of their jaw and can be found living in the Old World, whereas Non-acrodontan Iguanians do not have teeth that are fused at the top of their jaw and can be found living in the New World.
The Gueragama Sulamericana is the first member of the Acrodontan Iguanian to be discovered in the New World, which would suggest that both the Acrodontan Iguanians as well as the Non-acrodontan Iguanians initially had a worldwide presence.
Professor Caldwell and his colleagues say that the Gueragama Sulamericana most likely have the Southern Pangaean as a point of origin, and that the animals then split in the two (2) Iguanian groups when the Pangaean started to break up.
The authors also informed that South America was isolated for about 100 million years before bumping into North America, just about 5 million years ago. That’s when the south and the north began to exchange organisms.
Professor Caldwell is very happy with the discovery as it’s making the scientific community ask some faunal turnover questions and biogeographic questions that no one has ever considered before. He insisted that researchers still have much to learn as the Gueragama Sulamericana “is an Old World lizard in the new world at a time when we weren’t expecting to find it”.
He also stressed that the next step for paleontologists and herpetologists is to turn their attention to much older rock units that can help them continue the discovery process.
The findings were published on Wednesday, August 26, 2015, in the journal Nature Communications.
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