Subscribe
Science Notebook

Did lizard that walked on water once thrive in Wyoming?

Analysis of a 48-million-year old lizard skull could shed light on how tropical species respond to climate change.

  • close
    A baby Crested Basilisk lizard sits high on the thumb of an animal keeper at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia, 2002. This tiny but lightning-fast creature that grows to a length of about 40 centimeters (16 inches) is a resident of Central America where they are known to the locals for their ability to walk on water.
    Rob Griffith/AP/File
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

The ancient relative of a curious lizard known for walking on water may have darted around a tropical Wyoming.

Researchers hope that the two-foot-long lizard may help scientists understand how climate change may affect tropical species, Jack Conrad of American Museum of Natural History, who studied the fossil, said in a statement.

"Given our current period of global climate fluctuation, looking to the fossil record offers an important opportunity to observe what is possible," said Dr. Conrad, "and may give us an idea of what to expect from our dynamic Earth."

Conrad published his findings about the fossil's similarity to modern iguanian lizards in the open source journal PLOS One on Wednesday.

The 48-million-year-old fossil – a skull with a toothy smile – was recovered from the Bridger Formation in Wyoming in 2008. Conrad says the fossil is the first description of a new species and may represent the earliest clear member of the iguanian lizard group, Corytophanidae, according to the statement.

Fossils of plants and other animals found in its deposits in the region suggest that the Wyoming climate was about 16 degrees warmer 48 million years ago than it is today, Conrad, who is an assistant professor of anatomy at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, told LiveScience.

It is likely that the lizard moved southward as the climate in North America cooled, he added.

The best known modern corytophanid lizard is the basilisk lizard, a curious creature famous for being able to run across the surface of water. It is not clear whether the basilisk's ancestor shared the same ability.

The author suggests that the ancient lizard, which he named Basiliscus meaning "older male cousin," was likely active during the day and spent a lot of time in trees. The teeth were suitable for eating snakes, lizards, fish, insects, and plants, and the fairly large cheekbone is an indication that the lizard may have consumed larger prey items as well.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK