Earliest chameleon found

The latest discovery of a tiny tree lizard was dated to have been alive 100 million years ago.
By Alex Bourque | Apr 22, 2016
Tree resin has helped preserve early animals as a perfect specimen from millions of years ago. The gum helps conserve the animal, freezing it in time. The latest discovery of a tiny tree lizard was dated to have been alive 100 million years ago.

This discovery makes studies much quicker as the animal is complete. Scientists discovered a group of Tree resin lizard reserves and found among them a tiny specimen. From the features of the small lizard, it is the earliest relative of the modern chameleon. The lizard dates 78 million years earlier than the previous oldest chameleon.

The fossilized reptiles were part of a collector's private collection. He has donated them to the American Museum of Natural History, in New York to help further the knowledge on early lizards. The museum is using 3-D projection to depict the exact structure of the lizard.

"The fossil record is sparse because the delicate skin and fragile bones of small lizards do not usually preserve," said Edward Stanley from the University of Florida. "Especially in the tropics, which makes the new amber fossils an incredibly rare and unique window into a critical period of diversification."

From the 3-D projections, they identified that the early chameleon had split toes, unlike the modern chameleon that has its toes merged to help it climb better. However, the chameleons long sticky tongue is also present on the ancient lizard. Chameleons have the uncanny ability to camouflage. Scientists cannot actually tell if the ancestor could. However, they believe that its size and color alone could be an excellent defense due to the poor eyesight of most predators during that time.

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