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The Oldest Lizards, Salty Amphibians and Dandruffy Dinosaurs

By John Long

While dinosaur dandruff and salt-tolerance in tetrapods have palaeontologists excited, the recent auction of fossil bones is a sore point.

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Image copyright of Davide Bonadonna, published with permission

The oldest known ancestor of the squamates, a group containing all modern lizards and snakes as well as extinct marine mosasaurs, has been discovered from a site in the far north of Italy. Described in Nature (, the 230 million-year-old reptile, named Megachirella, shows the necessary features in the skull that define it as an early squamate. Being some 85 million years older than previous articulated fossil squamates, Megachirella provides the evidence that the first squamates diverged from all other reptiles just before the beginning of the Mesozoic era.

In a separate study announced in Nature Communications (