First intact skull of Mediterranean worm lizard found

Jun 04, 2014
This image depicts a virtual model of the holotype after removing the covering crust and the infilling matrix. Credit: PLoS ONE 9(6): e98082. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0098082

The first intact skull of a Mediterranean worm lizard has been found in Spain, according to a study published June 4, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Arnau Bolet from Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) and colleagues.

Only isolated fragments of fossil Mediterranean worm lizards have previously been found in Europe, and currently, our limited knowledge of their evolution is mainly based on molecular studies. The worm lizard is a limbless, scaled reptile and categorized in the genus Blanus in the Mediterranean. The authors have now found the only known fossil worm lizard skull from Europe and have determined it's a , called Blanus mendezi. This almost complete 11.3 mm skull and vertebrae from the Middle Miocene (11.6 million years ago) is the most complete fossil of this genus.

In the study, the scientists described the fossil and integrated available molecular, paleontological, and biogeographic data to discover that both the general configuration of the skull and the teeth are in accordance with those of extant Blanus, B. mendezi, which represents the oldest record of the Western Mediterranean clade. Scientists suggest that the new species emerged after the split between the two main (Eastern and Western Mediterranean) extant groups of blanids.

Dr. Bolet added, "The use of CT-scan techniques applied to this superbly preserved worm lizard has allowed an unprecedentedly detailed description for an early member of the family, providing insights into the evolutionary history of this poorly known group of reptiles."

Explore further: More than two dozen articles provide insights on mummies

More information: Bolet A, Delfino M, Fortuny J, Almécija S, Robles JM, et al. (2014) An Amphisbaenian Skull from the European Miocene and the Evolution of Mediterranean Worm Lizards. PLoS ONE 9(6): e98082. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0098082

Related Stories

Prehistoric sea lizard pulled from skeletons in closet

Jul 18, 2011

Dramatic breakthroughs in paleontology don’t always come from the field where researchers unearth fossils. That’s a theory University of Alberta professor Michael Caldwell says he has always believed, ...

Recommended for you

More than two dozen articles provide insights on mummies

May 22, 2015

In a special issue, The Anatomical Record ventures into the world of human mummified remains. In 26 articles, the anatomy of mummies is exquisitely detailed through cutting edge examination, while they are put in historical, archeo ...

The Bronze Age Egtved Girl was not from Denmark

May 21, 2015

The Bronze Age Egtved Girl came from far away, as revealed by strontium isotope analyses of the girl's teeth. The analyses show that she was born and raised outside Denmark's current borders, and strontium ...

Oldest-known stone tools pre-date Homo

May 20, 2015

Scientists working in the desert badlands of northwestern Kenya have found stone tools dating back 3.3 million years, long before the advent of modern humans, and by far the oldest such artifacts yet discovered. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.