Ancient 'Lone Star Lizard' Once Thrived in a Lush, Tropical Texas

First Posted: Feb 22, 2016 07:00 AM EST

An ancient lizard once lounged in the forests of a lush, tropical Texas. Scientists have discovered a new species of extinct worm lizard that they've dubbed the "Lone Star" lizard.

"Nothing has been called Solastella before, which is amazing to me because there are so many fossils from Texas," said Michelle Stocker, one of the researchers, in a news release. "It's the one guy, and it's from the Lone Star State, so it just seemed to fit."

Worm lizard is the common name for a group of reptiles called amphisbaenians, whose long bodies and reduced or absent limbs given them an earthworm-like appearance. The group includes extinct species as well as ones still living today. Slastella, in particular, belong to a subgroup called Rhineuridae, a group with only one living member: the Florida worm lizard.

"What's special about reptiles is that they are ectothermic, or cold-blooded, so they need to maintain their body temperature to the external environment," said Stocker. "You can actually get a better sense at what the climate was like from reptiles than from mammals. We were very excited that we not only found Solastella at the site, but a whole bunch of other reptiles."

The findings reveal a bit more about this ancient lizard. It also tell researchers a bit more about the climate at the time; it was likely warm, equable and forested during the Late Middle Eocene.

The findings are published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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