Paleontologists discover stunning lizard skeleton from 700,000 years ago

Paleontologists have made a stunning discovery on the Spanish island of Tenerife: a beautifully preserved, still articulated skeleton of a lizard from 700,000 years ago.

Researchers believe that the specimen might be an example of Gallotia goliath, an extinct species of giant lizard species that lived long before humans reached the Canary Islands.

Retired botanist Arnoldo Santos-Guerra stumbled across the remarkably intact lizard fossil two years ago while searching for snail shells.

The 42-pound sandstone block containing the specimen also contained a second lizard—one perhaps smaller or just more juvenile—but in a much worse state of preservation.

The researchers believe that the two lizards may have perished together in a sand dune.

The fact that the larger lizard is so well preserved—with its skeleton in life position rather than scattered in pieces—suggests it likely died and was buried suddenly, protecting it from decay and scavenging.

A 700,000-year-old articulated lizard’s skeleton was discovered by a retired botanist on the Spanish island of Tenerife.

Emeterio Suárez

After making the discovery, Santos-Guerra contacted paleontologist Carolina Castillo Ruiz at Tenerife’s Universidad de La Laguna, where the specimen was scanned and cleaned. It is now awaiting a more in-depth study.

Digital reconstructions of the larger fossil’s skull will be carefully compared with other extinct and living lizard species from the Canary Islands.

Careful analysis looking at diagnostic skeletal features will allow the researchers to determine if the specimen is G. goliath or another species entirely.

The fossil collections of the Universidad de La Laguna hold the remains of various lizards from the nearby island of El Hierro. These specimens have been dated to between 4,000 and 15,000 years old and include well-preserved jaws with teeth, leg bones and other meticulously cataloged elements for comparative study.

The exceptional condition of the new specimen, Castillo Ruiz said, makes such comparisons easier because the researchers can accurately measure the proportions of the intact fossil rather than extrapolating from fragments.

This discovery not only sheds light on the prehistoric wildlife of the Canary Islands. It also provides valuable insights into the region’s paleoecology.

The preservation of the skeleton allows scientists to study the morphology and potential behaviors of these ancient reptiles, enhancing our understanding of their evolution and adaptation.

Future research will focus on a detailed examination of the fossil’s anatomical features, contributing to broader studies on the biodiversity and environmental changes that occurred in the Canary Islands.

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