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First intact skull of Mediterranean worm lizard found: Skull of new species sheds light on Mediterranean worm lizard evolution

Date:
June 4, 2014
Source:
PLOS
Summary:
The first intact skull of a Mediterranean worm lizard has been found in Spain, according to a new study. 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.

This image depicts a virtual model of the holotype after removing the covering crust and the infilling matrix.
Credit: 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, CC-BY

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.

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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 new species, 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 fossil skull 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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by PLOS. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Arnau Bolet, Massimo Delfino, Josep Fortuny, Sergio Almécija, Josep M. Robles, David M. Alba. An Amphisbaenian Skull from the European Miocene and the Evolution of Mediterranean Worm Lizards. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (6): e98082 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0098082

Cite This Page:

PLOS. "First intact skull of Mediterranean worm lizard found: Skull of new species sheds light on Mediterranean worm lizard evolution." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140604203044.htm>.
PLOS. (2014, June 4). First intact skull of Mediterranean worm lizard found: Skull of new species sheds light on Mediterranean worm lizard evolution. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140604203044.htm
PLOS. "First intact skull of Mediterranean worm lizard found: Skull of new species sheds light on Mediterranean worm lizard evolution." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140604203044.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

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