Squamate Fossils: Mosasaurs, Lizards & Snakes | Darwin and Wallace: A Nature & Fossil Store

Squamate Fossils: Mosasaurs, Lizards & Snakes

       Squamates are the largest order of reptiles with nearly 9,500 species consisting of all extant lizards, worm lizards, and snakes. Squamata translates to "scaled reptiles," and refers to the horny, sometimes overlapping scales that these animals possess. Other features that unite the squamates are the ability to shed their skins as they grow, as well as strong, jointed skulls and jaws that allow them to consume large amounts of food. Squamate fossils are quite sparse in the fossil record, with the oldest lizard fossils occurring in the Jurassic period between 185-165 million years ago, and the oldest snake fossils occurring in the Cretaceous period approximately 90 million years ago. Mitochondrial analysis suggests the common ancestor of all squamates evolved in the early Triassic period, approximately 250-220 million years ago. Perhaps the most intriguing squamates are the now extinct Mosasaurs, a variety of completely marine-adapted lizards that could grow upwards of 46' long! Mosasaurs dominated the oceans of the Late Cretaceous Period, approximately 98-66 million years ago. The majority of Mosasaurs were the apex predators of their environment, with most of them possessing flesh-ripping teeth, while others had teeth adapted for crunching open shelled mollusks. Squamates are also noted for their variable tongues (forked tongues to detect scent particles, sticky tongues for capturing prey, colorful tongues to intimidate predators, etc), as well as some species being able to employ venomous bites for predation and defense. Today's squamates thrive on every continent (except Antarctica) and exist in a myriad of forms, from slithering snakes, to gliding lizards, to burrowing worm lizards, to color-changing chameleons, to predatory Komodo dragons, and all forms in between.

Click on the images below to see the incredible fossils we offer in our Squamate selection: