Scientists have analyzed a collection of fossilized reptiles from the cretaceous, including lizards in great conditions, that were donated to the American Museum of Natural History. These new findings “open a view into a lost world”, because fossils of this kind are very rare to find.
The creatures, which are locked in amber, date to 100 million years ago, some of them still maintain intact their claws, bones, teeth and scales. The fossils were discovered in a Burmese mine, but they previously belonged to collectors before being donated to the American Museum of Natural History.
Researchers were able to analyze the fossils using computerized tomography scanners to create images of the fossils and “digitally dissect” them without putting the delicate pieces at risk, explained postdoctoral student Edward Stanley, who is the co-author of the new paper, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
The collection is composed of creatures that resemble modern-day geckos, chameleons and other species that are similar to antique and modern reptile relatives, according to study results published Friday in Science Advances. Findings would appear to show that these animals provide great information for filling a patch that has been present in the history of pint-sized lizards.
“They provide details of external morphology, which is something that is pretty rare to find. These fossils represent most of the diversity of lizards with a superb amount of detail,” said Juan Diego Daza, who led the research, to BBC News. “We can pretty much see how the animals looked when they were alive.”
An “open a view into a lost world”
Professor Daza, of Sam Houston State University in Texas, said that the fossils provide a really nice snapshot of the past and described the research as a travel to the past, where they were able to see how the animals looked like, said BBC News.
The majority of fossils found on Earth belong to large animals that lived in areas that are optimal for preserving them after their deaths, such as deserts or river beds. That being said, small and delicate fossils such as the studied are hard to find in regions located in the tropics unless they become trapped in tree resin, said Smithsonian on Friday.
Amber is one of the most interesting natural methods of fossilization, said co-author Edward Stanley, a herpetology researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History, to The Christian Science Monitor. It appears that the fossilized tree resin can preserve things that other substances cannot, even in the tropical forest such as the Myanmar’s, where things easily decompose.
Source: BBC News