A team of researchers has discovered the fossilized remains of the first ancestor of Jesus lizards. The big surprise is that the bones of this prehistoric reptile were found in Wyoming, which is uncommon considering that these lizards now live in warm places like Columbia, Mexico, North and Central America. The creature got its name “Jesus” because of its ability to walk and run on water.
Scientists believe that this species of Jesus lizard, known as Babibasiliscus alxi is probably the oldest member belonging to the family of reptiles called Corytophanidae. This group also includes other lizards lie the chameleon and the iguana. However, because there aren’t many fossils discovered that belonged to this Jesus lizard, biologists don’t know much about it.
Today’s Jesus lizards live in regions that have warm temperatures, like central Mexico, Columbia and some countries from North and Central America. Scientists have found fossilized remains of animals that usually live in tropical regions in areas that have temperate weather conditions. This means that many regions around the world were once warmer than they are today. For example, experts say that when the prehistoric Jesus lizards walked on the waters of Wyoming, it was about 16 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it is today.
Jack Conrad, researcher at the American Museum of Natural History, said that the recently discovered fossils of Jesus lizard may help them better understand the weather conditions that Earth experienced millions of years ago. It could also give them an idea of how our planet will evolve in the future, due to its climate fluctuations.
According to the new study, the prehistoric Jesus lizard was a diurnal animal, meaning that it was active during the day and rested at night. This reptile spent much of its time in trees, researchers believe. It was about 2 foot long and its diet consisted mainly of plants, insects, small lizards, fish and snakes. Because of their big cheekbones, the experts assume the lizards may have preyed on larger animals also.
The ancient Jesus lizard had a ridge on its head that protected its eyes from too much sun, and it also made it look ferocious, so that it scared of bigger predators. Their teeth had three tips, which means that the animal was well-equipped for chewing its food.
The Jesus lizard’s remains were discovered in the Bridger Formation, in the Rocky Mountains, Wyoming.
The findings were published in the journal PLOS One.
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