London: Scientists have found a 120-million-year-old fossil that is believed to be the remains of ‘oldest pregnant lizard’.
The fossil, which was found in north-eastern China, has proved that some lizards and snakes were giving birth to live young, rather than laying eggs, in the Early Cretaceous period - much earlier than previously thought.
The pregnant female`s body, identified as Yabeinosaurus, contains the tiny skeletons of more than 15 baby lizards.
Scientists from University College London and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing made the discovery.
When Yuan Wang, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, examined the fossil he spotted the tiny remains of at least 15 almost fully developed embryos inside it.
“Sure enough, when I examined it under the microscope, I could see all these little babies, the Daily Mail quoted Wang as saying.
“Mention live birth and most people think only of furry mammals, but roughly 20 pc of living lizards and snakes also produce live young rather than laying eggs.
“We previously thought that lizards adapted to live birth after mammals, but now it looks like it happened at roughly the same kind of time.
“This specimen is the oldest pregnant lizard we have seen, which implies physiological adaptations, like adequate blood supply to the embryos and very thin shells - or no shells at all - to allow oxygen supply, evolved very early on,” added Wang.
The study has been published in Naturwissenschaft.