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Uromastyx Lizard That Roamed the Earth 80 Million Years Ago Discovered in Brazil

August 26, 2015



A new species of lizard that roamed the earth about 80 million years ago has been discovered and described by paleontologists with the University of Alberta. The cachet with this particular species is that it is an Old World lizard that was discovered in the New World. Named Gueragama sulamericana, the lizard was found in Southern Brazil in the municipality of Cruzeiro do Oeste. 

Gueragama sulamericana

Reconstruction created by J. Csotonyi

As the extant agamid Uromastyx in Africa, G. sulamericana also inhabited a desert environment. The new species was found in an ancient oasis along with pterosaurs of the species Caiuajara dobruskii

"The roughly 1700 species of iguanas are almost without exception restricted to the New World, primarily the Southern United States down to the tip of South America," Michael Caldwell, a biological sciences professor from the University of Alberta said in a statement. 

"This fossil is an 80-million-year-old specimen of an acrodontan in the New World," Caldwell said. "It's 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."

The paleontologists say Gueragama sulamericana lived in an arid to desert environment during the Late Cretaceous period and like igamid lizards of today, probably lived in burrows to avoid extreme temperatures during the day. 

The lead author of the paper, Tiago Simoes, a Vanier scholar and Ph.D student of Caldwell’s says the discovery raises a few biogeographic and faunal turnover questions that have yet to be answered. The next step? To focus on older rock to find the next step in the evolutionary process.

The full paper, "A stem acrodontan lizard in the Cretaceous of Brazil revises early lizard evolution in Gondwana"
can be found on the Nature.com website.

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