Scientists detailed the fossil belonging to an ancient relative of the modern Jesus Lizard, which earns its name for its ability to walk on water.
According to Live Science, the fossil was discovered in Wyoming, far from where modern Jesus Lizards reside today. While the reptiles are now native to Mexico and Columbia, the researchers said Wyoming had a much warmer, tropical climate during the Eocene epoch. During the Eocene epoch, Wyoming was about 16 degrees Fahrenheit (9 degrees Celsius) warmer than it is now, and supported a lush, tropical climate, according to fossils of plants and other animals found in deposits.
“Given our current period of global climate fluctuation, looking to the fossil record offers an important opportunity to observe what is possible, and may give us an idea of what to expect from our dynamic Earth,” study author Jack Conrad, an assistant professor of anatomy at the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine, said in a press release.
Conrad published his findings int he journal PLOS One and could not say for certain if the ancient Jesus Lizards had the ability to walk now water, as those who discovered the fossil did not recover the reptile’s feet.
“They have very large feet, and they’re able to move their legs very quickly,” Conrad told Live Science. “They’re able to use just the surface tension of water to flap their foot on the water and pull up before the water closes around the toes.”
The researchers named the lizard Babibasiliscus alexia and determined it was the oldest known member of the Corytophanidae group to which the Jesus Lizard belongs. Bu the lizard Conrad examined had some pretty unique features of its own. The reptile’s skull showed a large jaw fracture which had apparently healed.
“This is a pretty severely broken jaw based on what we can see in the CT scan,” he said. “It usually takes a pretty hardy animal to survive something like that.”