A new lizard, discovered in South America, gives scientists new insights to the geography of Pangea.
According to NBC, the discovery of a new species of lizard from southern Brazil can provide answers to long pondered questions about evolution.
The discovery of this lizard, which lived over 80 million years ago “may reshape what we know about the evolutionary history of reptiles alive today” according to the University of Alberta.
Michael Caldwell, a biological sciences professor from the University of Alberta, reports that “The roughly 1,700 species of iguanas are almost without exception restricted to the New World, primarily the Southern United States down to the tip of South America.”
“This fossil is an 80 million year old specimen of an acrodontan in the New World,” Caldwell continued. “It’s a missing link in the sense of the paleobiogeography and possibly the origins of the group, so it’s pretty good evidence to suggest that back in the lower part of the Cretaceous, the southern part of Pangaea was still a kind of single continental chunk.”
This information can help scientists gain further knowledge about the landscape and ancestry of Pangaea. Scientists believe this lizard to originate from Southern Pangea, and that after the Pangaean break up, the acrodontans and chameleon groups ruled the Old World while the iguanid group was left alone in South America.
The current scientific hypothesis, according to Caldwell, is that “South America remained isolated until about 5 million years ago. That’s when it bumps into North America, and we see this exchange of organism north and south. It was kind of like a floating Noah’s Arc for a very long time, about 100 million years. This is an Old World lizard in the new world at a time when we weren’t expecting to find it. It answers a few questions about iguanid lizards and their origin.”