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Jul 09, 2013 09:45 AM EDT

Complete Fossil of 23 Million-Year-Old Lizard in Amber Resin Found by Mexican Researchers

 Scientists were able to tell the age of the fossil by using the date of the amber deposit that the fossil was found entombed in.
Scientists were able to tell the age of the fossil by using the date of the amber deposit that the fossil was found entombed in.
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

A team of Mexican researchers have identified a small piece of fossil resin, in the shape of a trapezoid, to be of a 23 million-year-old lizard belonging to a new species of genus Anolis.

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Several months ago, the researchers retrieved the complete fossil of the lizard, trapped in amber, from Simojovel amber deposits located in the northern part of the south-eastern state of Chiapas, Mexico.

The most notable feature of this fossil was the soft tissue and the skin of the vertebrae was well-preserved in the amber since pre-historic times.

The fossilized amber deposit is currently displayed at the Amber Museum in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Francisco Riquelme of the National Autonomous University of Mexico's Physics Institute said that the lizard fossil measured approximately 4.5 cm by 1.3 cm and was 'a complete and articulated animal that also preserves remains of soft tissue and skin.'

 The genus Anolis belonging to the family Dactyloidae, comprises of approximately 400 species. They are known for their adaptive techniques. Most of these species can develop camouflage to blend with their environment. 

"The fossil specimens found in the state date back a minimum of 23 million years because that is the age of the amber that is extracted from deposits in the municipalities of Simojovel, Huitihupan, El Bosque, Pueblo Nuevo, Palenque, Totolapa and Malpaso," said, Gerardo Carbot, director of Chiapas's Paleontology Museum said.

Amber is a tree resin that usually contains small remnants of plants and animals but it is rare to find complete vertebrates like the lizard.

Last August, scientists discovered the oldest fossil preserved in amber. They found a 230 million-year-old mite in north-eastern Italy.

"Dinosaurs have come and gone, but mites have hardly changed," David Grimaldi, of the American Museum of Natural History, in New York City, said. "Their body form is quite similar to what we see in gall mites today."

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