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Mid-Cretaceous amber fossils illuminate the past diversity of tropical lizards

Published on Mar 1, 2016in Science Advances
· DOI :10.1126/sciadv.1501080
Juan D. Daza15
Estimated H-index: 15
(SHSU: Sam Houston State University),
Edward L. Stanley9
Estimated H-index: 9
(Florida Museum of Natural History)
+ 2 AuthorsDavid A. Grimaldi41
Estimated H-index: 41
(AMNH: American Museum of Natural History)
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Abstract
Modern tropical forests harbor an enormous diversity of squamates, but fossilization in such environments is uncommon and little is known about tropical lizard assemblages of the Mesozoic. We report the oldest lizard assemblage preserved in amber, providing insight into the poorly preserved but potentially diverse mid-Cretaceous paleotropics. Twelve specimens from the Albian-Cenomanian boundary of Myanmar (99 Ma) preserve fine details of soft tissue and osteology, and high-resolution x-ray computed tomography permits detailed comparisons to extant and extinct lizards. The extraordinary preservation allows several specimens to be confidently assigned to groups including stem Gekkota and stem Chamaleonidae. Other taxa are assignable to crown clades on the basis of similar traits. The detailed preservation of osteological and soft tissue characters in these specimens may facilitate their precise phylogenetic placement, making them useful calibration points for molecular divergence time estimates and potential keys for resolving conflicts in higher-order squamate relationships.
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