Fossils are such wondrous things! They are windows into the past that tech us things that can potentially help us make a better future. And the older the fossils, the more interesting they usually are. A group of researchers studying some fossils form Myanmar found some pretty interesting things about them.
Dating back to somewhere around 99 million years ago, the fossils belong to 12 lizards that found themselves trapped in amber. They are mostly whole, although parts of them are strangely missing. Here are a few noteworthy points related to the discovery.
Some of the fossils obviously belong to a prehistoric form of gecko. Despite the fact that they presented toe pads similar to those used by geckos today to climb up walls and do other wall crawling feats, they do look somewhat different. This means that as long as 100 million years ago, geckos were pretty much as specialized as they are today.
Another one of the reptiles trapped in amber strongly resembled a chameleon. Only it was a baby chameleon. Or at least a small reptile on its evolutionary way towards becoming a chameleon. Less than half an inch long, the baby chameleon also had features characteristic to other lizards.
But what truly makes the fossil the chameleon’s evolutionary forefather is the hyoid bone, or the bone that allows chameleons to launch their tongues at mind-boggling speeds. Because of this, the researchers were able to ignore characteristics such as its similarities to dragon lizards.
Amber in time
None of this would have been possible without everybody’s favorite hoarder – amber. Amber loves whatever it touches so much that it wants to keep it forever. And the process behind this classical scrapbooker is nothing short of amazing.
When a body gets trapped in amber, preservatives in the tree sap enter it. At the same time, the sugar in the resin draw out the moisture from the body, drying it up and preventing it from decomposing. Then, as the sweet tree goo encases the whole body, it hardens, preserving it for eternity – or at least until scientists start examining it.
Missing body parts
Since it was amber in which the fossils were found, the fact that some of the reptiles were missing the occasional body part is quite the mystery. Although it’s most likely not the case, one of the researchers has his own theory based on his vivid imagination.
He says that the reptiles might have been chased by a predator or two, and that they either managed to get a nip before the tiny reptiles escaped, or that the predator saw that the prey was now encased in amber and simply ate around it.
Of course, there are a lot more interesting things about these 12 lizards trapped in 99 milllion year old amber, but that’s our time for now.
Image source: YouTube