Unless you didn’t get the memo that Jurassic Park was not a true story, you probably know that dinosaurs died out a very long time ago. It was 65.5 million years ago, to be exact, and a well-accepted theory pins the extinction on a 6.2-mile-wide asteroid that hurtled into the earth at around 67,000 miles an hour. However, what you might not realize is that the Cretacous-Paleogene extinction event, as it is known in the scientific community, wiped out many species of lizards and snakes, just as it did dinos. And although 100% of non- avian dinosaurs probably died out, and only 83% of lizards and dinosaurs became extinct; the number of species of extinct lizards and snakes who took a hit rivaled that of dinosaurs. (Read more about the great extinction at science.nationalgeographic.com) Researchers from Yale and Harvard Universities, led by Yale postdoctoral student Nicholas R. Longrich, recently conducted a detailed analysis of 30 species of lizards and snakes that thrived on earth right up until the extinction event. They analyzed the remains of 21 known, and discovered nine new, species of lizards and snakes. One of the newly-named species was dubbed Obamadon gracilis (no relation to the President). Longrich and his colleagues examined 2 jaw bones left by O. gracilis, who was named for its long, narrowly-shaped teeth; odon means tooth in Latin, and gracilis means slender. This lizard was a member of the clade Polyglyphanodontia, which represented 40 percent of the lizards in North America before completely dying out after the mass extinction. Though it was probably around only one foot long, O. gracilis may have perished because of its size. The snakes and lizards who did survive were all less than a pound in weight and so small that they could easily hide underground to avoid severe climate changes and fires. The survivors became the ancestors of the current 9,000 species of lizards and snakes that creep and crawl on Earth today.

Discover more at www.examiner.com.

This study is in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Published On: January 8, 2013

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