An entire lizard trapped in amber is gazing back at us from 110 million years ago_laser freckle removal reviews

Elizabeth Rayne·4 min read

The unsung star of Jurassic Park was a mosquito frozen in amber. While you can’t really extract blood from specimens like that, you could be transported back in time if you looked at a specimen of fossilized tree sap and found a 110 million-year-old lizard staring back at you.

Creatures get trapped in amber all the time, but most prehistoric finds are insects. Amber is a great material for preserving arthropods because of their already tough shells that will hold on even if the insides disintegrate. But what about a lizard? Retinosaurus hkamentiensis is a new extinct species of lizard that was unexpectedly found trapped in Burmese amber. No one expected an entire reptile to be preserved so well, from its scaly skin down to its skeleton.

What are now the empty eyes of Retinosaurus may have once seen dinosaurs or giant ferns or dragonflies the size of your head. It was determined to be a juvenile that ran into a sticky situation when it ran into a glob of tree amber that it couldn’t escape. It was so well preserved that paleontologist Andrej Čerňanský of Comenius University and his team, who recently published a study in Scientific Reports, approached the prehistoric lizard almost as if it were alive.

“We were able to study not only a skeleton, but even the external appearance (scalation) of the lizard,” Čerňanský told SYFY WIRE. "In fact, we can study the animal in the same way that herpetologists study modern species.”

Liz Lizard in Amber
Liz Lizard in Amber

Photo: Joseph Bevitt/Edward Stanley/Andrej Čerňanský et al

Retinosaurus is no dinosaur (“saurus” actually means “lizard”), but still a fascinating relic from a lost era. CT scanning can be problematic sometimes, but the unreal preservation of the lizard — so much as the double eyelids of the left eye are still there — helped the researchers turn scans into eerily lifelike renderings of a creature that has not walked the Earth since the mid-Cretaceous. Its organs may have not made it, but the trachea and bronchi were preserved. By taking a closer look at the skeleton and patterns of the scales, they were able to make out that it was not yet mature.


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