World's oldest chameleon found in amber fossil

World’s oldest chameleon found in amber fossil

About 100 million years ago an infant lizard's life was cut short when it crawled into a sticky situation.

The early chameleon was creeping through the ancient tropics of present-day Myanmar when it succumbed to the resin of a coniferous tree. Over time, the resin fossilized into , leaving the lizard remarkably preserved. Seventy-eight million years older than the previous oldest specimen on record, the dime-size chameleon along with 11 more ancient fossil lizards were pulled, encased in amber, from a mine decades ago, but it wasn't until recently that scientists had the opportunity to analyze them.

In Jurassic Park, fictional scientists cloned dinosaurs with blood extracted from amber, but these real-life fossils hold snapshots of "missing links" in the evolutionary history of lizards that will allow scientists to gain a better understanding of where they fit on the tree of life, said Edward Stanley, a University of Florida postdoctoral student in herpetology at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Of the 12 lizard specimens, three—a gecko, an archaic lizard and the chameleon—were particularly well-preserved. The new species will be named and described in a future study.

World’s oldest chameleon found in amber fossil

"These fossils tell us a lot about the extraordinary, but previously unknown diversity of lizards in ancient tropical forests," said Stanley, co-author of a new study appearing online today in the journal Science Advances. "The fossil record is sparse because the delicate skin and fragile bones of small lizards do not usually preserve, especially in the tropics, which makes the new amber fossils an incredibly rare and unique window into a critical period of diversification."

Stanley first encountered the amber fossils at the American Museum of Natural History after a private collector donated them. He knew the fossils were ancient, but it was a combination of luck and micro-CT technology that allowed him to identify the oldest chameleon.

"It was mind-blowing," he said, to see the fossils for the first time. "Usually we have a foot or other small part preserved in amber, but these are whole specimens—claws, toepads, teeth, even perfectly intact colored scales. I was familiar with CT technology, so I realized this was an opportunity to look more closely and put the lizards into evolutionary perspective."

World’s oldest chameleon found in amber fossil

A micro-CT scanner looked inside the amber without damaging the fossils, allowing study researchers to digitally piece together tiny bones and examine soft tissue. Scanned images of the detailed preservation provided insight into the anatomy and ecology of ancient lizards, Stanley said.

The amber gecko, for example, confirms the group already had highly advanced adhesive toe pads used for climbing, suggesting this adaptation originated earlier. As for the Southeast Asian , the find significantly pushes back the origins of the group and challenges long-held views that chameleons got their start in Africa. Stanley said it also reveals the evolutionary order of chameleons' strange and highly derived features. The amber-trapped lizard has the iconic projectile tongue of modern chameleons, but had not yet developed the unique body shape and fused toes specially adapted for gripping that we see today.

Stanley said the fact that these incredibly ancient have modern counterparts living today in the Old World tropics speaks to the stability of tropical forests.

"These exquisitely preserved examples of past diversity show us why we should be protecting these areas where their modern relatives live today," Stanley said. "The tropics often act as a stable refuge where biodiversity tends to accumulate, while other places are more variable in terms of climate and species. However, the tropics are not impervious to human efforts to destroy them."

World’s oldest chameleon found in amber fossil

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More information: J. D. Daza et al. Mid-Cretaceous amber fossils illuminate the past diversity of tropical lizards, Science Advances (2016). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501080
Journal information: Science Advances

Citation: World's oldest chameleon found in amber fossil (2016, March 7) retrieved 18 August 2019 from
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Mar 08, 2016
A number of issues to consider here:
1. Under what conditions does a fast creature like this lizard get trapped in resin?
2. Did the researchers examine the C-14 content of the amber as well as that of the lizard[and other creatures]? If not, why not? Did they succumb to the bad assumption that it was unnecessary? If they did, is this reported in their documents?
3. How did they determine the age of the resin and its contents? Did they assume that only certain fossils could have been present in a particular situation or did they do the full radiometric analysis with various kinds of methodologies?
4. If the fossil already had grippy feet, just when did those miraculous abilities actually "evolve" since they are critical to the life of the organism?
5. If it looks like a modern lizard it should be a pointer that anything said in support of millions of years needs to be taken with a big spoon of salt. There is no proof of millions of years here, only assumption.

Mar 08, 2016
Stanley said the fact that these incredibly ancient lizards have modern counterparts living today in the Old World tropics speaks to the stability of tropical forests.

In other words, it looks incredibly like this is an example of a fossil that has actual living counterparts that perhaps should have been extinct already but now presents us with a huge challenge to explain why they are not. How did this forest remain so stable whilst in the same period the whole of the human evolution took place in approximately that number of years?
What magic kept it from being affected by all the environmental pressures that drove some supposed pre-chimp to become a human being????

Mar 08, 2016
you've never seen a lizard or ant trapped in sap? you need to get out of the basement more

see answer to #2
defninitely more than your "6000" years ago... also, see answer to #2
5. blah blah bullsh*t blah There is no proof of millions of years here, only assumption
Learn to read, also, see answer to #2

not going to answer the rest because it is strawman heaped with red herring topped with fanatical religious stupidity
IOW- read FSC
Evolution can go the other way too, Freddie - and you're the perfect example of that: Homo dumbassia
at least you weren't stupid enough to say "were you there" like Kosher-Ham says to the kids!

Mar 08, 2016
Just reading the crap that these trolls put on here exhausts me...
@Thirteenth Doctor
man, sometimes i wonder why i bother, too... and i often want to just say "f*ck it" and go to bed

but it usually comes down to just a few things that i care about deeply

1- i despise religion (which i differentiate from a faith -faith is just the belief without evidence, whereas religion is the dogmatic adherence to tenets without thought or care that cause prejudice)

2- i love science

3- i want my grandkids to learn to think critically, and not just accept something because "somebody said so" or because some fanatic wrote a book about it

i don't expect the pseudoscience or religious poster to change their mind: they've already made their mind up. they're Darwin awards waiting for the moment to get their footnote on the web-page

but there are SOME who are on the fence and want evidence
THEY will follow the evidence
THEY are the target audience, IMHO

Mar 08, 2016
Captain Stumpy, good comment. Astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson has a talk he gives about the "god of the gaps," that you are probably aware of, but if you aren't, it is worth a look.

Another thought for those asserting the universe is 6,000 years old on a science website with significant astronomy content. If the universe is only 6,000 years old, how is it we can see past a relatively tiny bubble with a radius of 6,000 light years? Every other galaxy in the universe and even most of our galaxy is beyond 6,000 light years away. The evidence from literally centuries of using telescopes is irrefutable. If you have a clear dark sky you might be able to see the Andromedia Galaxy about 2.5 million years ago with your own eyes, no telescope required. The fact we recently found a galaxy 13.4 billion light years away is a hint that the calculated 13.8 billion year age of the universe is in the right ballpark.

Mar 09, 2016
Astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson has a talk he gives about the "god of the gaps,"
I love that clip... i also have that saved because it is a great gem of logic!


I mean if I had all the answers to turn over mainstream science, and others shared that mentality, I'd band together and force a listen with using their own tools against them.
@13th Doc
CAN i hear an AMEN!

Mar 09, 2016
I'm sure the government has already eradicated the alien DNA elements.

(I'm joking...)

Mar 14, 2016
Evolution is supported by such a wealth of evidence from a very wide cross section of scientific disciplines that it's accepted as a concrete fact by everyone except people who don't understand it. It's really that simple.

For people who don't get the concept, the clue might be in the "amber" part of the article. Amber is NOT tree resin, it's a form of mineral which tree resin turns into in a process which takes hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years. It's fossilised tree resin, and fossilisation is also supported by an overwhelming flood of evidence across multiple scientific disciplines. So the bottom line is simply this. If you keep getting the same message from many different, unrelated sources, you have to ask yourself: What is my reality trying to tell me? And the answer lies in facts as supported by the evidence, not in some mythology conjured up by fallible people from the depths of their fear and ignorance.

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