Back in 2003, scientists uncovered an odd looking, tiny lizard-like fossil in the Dolomites, a mountain range in Northern Italy, which is also a part of the Alps.
Silvio Renesto and Renato Posenato wrote of the discovery in the Italian science journal Research In Paleontology and Stratigraphy.
An international team of paleontologists then set out to learn more about the fossil’s identity and origins.
A new study published in the journal Nature reveals their findings.
It turns out that the 76 millimeter-long fossil dates back 240 to 250 million years, and has been identified as an ancient lizard species called Megachirella wachtleri.
The researchers say what they encountered is the oldest lizard fossil ever found.
The study also reveals that the Megachirella wachtleri is 75,000 years older than what were previously thought to be the oldest lizard fossils, leading some in the science community to call the ancient species the “mother of all lizards and snakes.”
“It is extraordinary when you realize you are answering long-standing questions about the origin of one of the largest groups of vertebrates on Earth,” remarked study lead author Tiago Simões, a Ph.D. student from Canada’s University of Alberta, in a press release.