However, further study revealed certain lizard-like features, which hinted that the fossil might provide unique clues about squamates - the largest recent order of reptiles, comprising all lizards and snakes.
This Megachirella fossil thus pulls our evolutionary timeline of lizards back by 75 million years, since there was no prior evidence that any were alive back then.
Simões devoted his PhD to understanding the family tree of living and extinct squamates. The disaster which occurred around 252 million years ago destroyed 96 percent of marine species and 70 percent of craniate.
The fossil of Megachirella wachtleri.
"I spent almost 400 days visiting over 50 museums and university collections across 17 countries to collect data on fossil and living species of reptiles to understand the early evolution of reptiles and lizards", Simoes explained.
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An worldwide group of scientists under the leadership of Michael Caldwell from the University of Alberta conducted a study of the remains of reptiles Megachirella wachtleri found in the Alps over 10 years ago.
Apart from that, with the new study, a new technology has also come to the front, i.e., micro CT scanning.
The data was analysed using state of the art methods to assess relationships across species, revealing that the once enigmatic reptile was actually the oldest known squamate.
An artists impression of Megachirella wachtleri walking through the vegetation in the Dolomites 240m years ago.
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When megachirella walked the Earth, in the middle Triassic period, the world's land masses were crushed together in a supercontinent called Pangaea.
Paleontologists have identified a 240-million-year-old fossil of a lizard as the "ancestor" of all modern lizards and snakes, providing key insight into the origin and evolution of one of the largest groups of vertebrates on Earth. The CT scan brought more facts to light about the physical characteristics of the Megachirella, for example a small bone in the lower jaw of the creature that is a distinct feature of the squamate group.
As it turns out, the Megachirella is the ancestor of squamates, which is the class that both snakes and lizards belong in now.
"It's confirming that we are pretty much clueless", Simões said of the new species.
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