The 240-million-year-old fossil, Megachirella wachtleri, is the most ancient ancestor of all modern lizards and snakes, known as squamates, according to researchers including those from the University of Bristol in the UK.
"I spent almost 400 days visiting more than 50 museums and university collections in 17 countries to collect data on fossil and living species of reptiles to understand the early evolution of reptiles and lizards".
Scientists have unearthed a finger-sized fossilized reptile in the Italian Alps, which is now treated as the mother of all reptiles and the oldest reptile ever discovered. It is different than normal CT scan technology and using this one can study the parts of the fossil engrafted in the rock, for example, fossil's belly. Thus the origins of the largest class of vertebrates on earth have been solved thanks to this fossil which was discovered in the 2000s.
"It deserved further attention - especially in the form of CT [computed tomography] scanning - to provide greater anatomical details and an improved data set, to understand its placement in the evolutionary tree of reptiles", the study's lead study author Tiago Simões, a doctoral candidate in biological sciences at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, told Live Science.
There are about 10,000 species of squamates around the world, and scientists say they are still learning about the early stages of the animals' evolution. Talking more about this Simoes informed that it can remove the rocks digitally. But the genetic evidence has now suggested that lizards were actually evolved much before than previously thought. But the oldest known squamate fossil was about 70 million years younger than that.
"For the first time, we are providing agreement". "But on the positive side, we also have all this extra information in terms of the transition from more general reptile features to more lizard-like features". All modern squamates evolved from the Megachirella wachtleri.
By studying the fossil of this ancient "mother", scientists are able to bridge gaps in knowledge on a reptilian group's evolution.
Last week, scientists had a 'Eureka!' moment after they successfully tracked down the entire family of lizards, all the way back to the oldest known fossil.
"It's nearly a virtual Rosetta stone", said Caldwell, also a paleontologist at the University of Alberta, "in terms of the information that it gives us on the evolution of snakes and lizards".
Researchers from the U of A, Australia, Italy and the United States worked on the analysis leading up to this discovery.