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Volume 557 Issue 7707, 31 May 2018

On the origin of lizards

The cover shows an artist’s impression of the Middle Triassic lizard Megachirella wachtleri. Found in the Italian Alps, the fossilized remains of this creature were first described in 2003. In this issue, Tiago Simões and his colleagues unveil a detailed analysis of the fossil using high-resolution microfocus X-ray computed tomography. The results shed fresh light on the origins of squamates — the group of reptiles that includes lizards and snakes. The team found that M. wachtleri is 75 million years older than other oldest known squamate fossils, thereby partially plugging a gap in the fossil record. Their phylogenetic analysis puts the emergence of geckos ahead of iguanians in the evolution of squamates and shows that the initial diversification of the major reptile lineages occurred before the Permian–Triassic boundary 252 million years ago.

Cover image: Davide Bonadonna

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