Scientists have recently identified a 48-million-year-old fossil of an ancient relative of the Jesus Lizard, that is most commonly known for the fact that it can walk on water using its hind legs.
The species identified in the fossil was named Babibasiliscus alxi, which is one of the oldest members of the Jesus Lizard group. It seems that the word “Babi” is a very old word from the Shoshone Native American languages which translates as “older male cousin”.
American Museum of Natural History’s Jack Conrad, the lead author of the research project that has led to the discovery and research of the fossil, has explained that they chose this particular word because of the significance that this ancient species bares to the Jesus lizards that are still roaming the Earth today.
“The generic name is meant to honor the Shoshone people who originally inhabited the areas in which the specimen was discovered”said Jack Conard.
Conard and his team have discovered the fossil in the appropriately named Lucky Lizard Locality found in Uinta County, Wyoming. The researcher has explained that during the time when Babibasiliscus alxi was still roaming the lands of today’s Wyoming, the the local climate in that area was terribly similar to what we experience today in the Earth’s tropical and subtropical regions.
Upon close analysis of the fossil, Jack Conrad and his team have concluded that the Jesus Lizard’s older cousin was in fact 2 feet in length. It had a specialized bony ridge on its skull, that served for conveying protection from the sun to its eyes. This ridge also had another interesting purpose, as it provided a menacing look tot he lizard that must have proven useful for keeping unwanted animals away.
The Babibasiliscus alxi was an omnivorous animal and so, it could feed on both plants, but also insects, other lizards, fish and snakes. The animal had specialized teeth for this task, as biting through the scales of a reptile is a pretty difficult task. Therefore, it seems that the “Babi” lizard had three sharp pointy ends on each of its teeth and extremely developed cheekbones, that provided the animal with strength to chew its prey.
The relatives of the Babibasiliscus alxi are the amazing Jesus Lizard group, whose members are thriving today in the warm climate from the region between central Mexico and northern Colombia. The discovery of the fossil and of those similar to it provides scientists with more data that would explain the migration patterns that these ancient species have developed in order to survive the changes in climate.
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