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23 Million-Year-Old Lizard Found Preserved in Amber

Jul 08, 2013 07:39 PM EDT

Mexican scientists are currently examining a complete fossil of a lizard that has remained entombed in a chunk of amber for some 23 million years, according to a recent report in La Jornada en Linea.

The amber encasing the vertebrate is approximately 1.8 inches by .5 inches, Fox reports, and while the discovery does not mark the first time an Anolis lizard was found preserved in ancient reisn, scientists believe it may be the first of its kind in other ways: found in the Simojovel amber deposits of the northern part of the southeastern state of Chiapas, the creature was preliminarily identified as representing a new species of the genus Anolis.

Furthermore, the find represents only the second anole in amber discovered anywhere in the world other than the Dominican Republic; however, the first, Anolis electrum, was so incomplete that little could be said about its taxonomy of lifestyle.

In contrast, Fransisco Riquelme of the National Autonomous University of Mexico's Physics Institute told Efe that the specimen was "a complete and articulated animal that also preserves remains of soft tissue and skin."

The estaimte regarding the age of the specimen is based on the fact that the region's amber dates back 23 million years, Gerardo Carbot, the director of Chiapa's Paleontology Museum, futher explained.

Jonathan Losos is both a professor and curator at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Havard University. Regarding the genus, Loso wrote on his site Anole Annals that the lizards are "an upcoming model system for studies of evolutionary diversification" due to their "rapidly multiplying lineage, in which the members display great diversity in their ecology, behavior and observed characteristics."

Based on the complete nature of the newest lizard, Losos says he looks forward to the results of the studies currently underway.

"It will be interesting to learn more about this one," he said.

According to Science News, the oldest creatures ever found preserved in amber were 230-million-year-old mites discovered in northeastern Italy.

The specimen, meanwhile, is currently on display at the Amber Museum in San Cristobal del las Casas. 

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