The fossil of a lizard, defined as “rare”, which lived between 15 and 20 million years ago was found trapped in amber in an area of the Dominican Republic. What remains is the fossil of a paw bone but its condition is only apparently good since the bone itself has largely decomposed and chemically transformed.
Precisely for this reason little remains of the original structure but the research results are still very interesting according to the researchers who published their study on PLOS ONE.
The results are also interesting to understand the process of fossilization itself following decomposition. The fossilization process, in order to offer as much information as possible, must take place very quickly, before or at the same time as the process carried out by microorganisms that act as “scavengers” by removing the organic parts.
In addition, there is another process that is not exactly positive in terms of the information that a fossil can offer, namely that of substitution by the minerals of the original substance.
In such contexts amber is considered a godsend: the material of which this substance is composed excels in terms of conservation, so much so that in many cases practically whole animals have been found enclosed in this resin produced by trees that hardens over time.
The lizard whose piece of paw was found enclosed within the price of amber belongs to the genus Anolis, a genus that still exists today. The piece of amber measures about 2 cubic cm.
Researchers believe it is a rare find because vertebrates are rarely found inside amber (mostly insects are found).
Researchers at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Bonn microscopically examined the piece of paw that included claws and toes. The tomograph scans then revealed that the piece was broken in two places, a sign that the lizard had probably been injured by a predator before it became trapped in amber and was no longer able to move properly, probably to escape even the amber itself.
As we said before, amber is considered an ideal preservative substance but in this case scientists have detected the presence of a fissure through which various substances have penetrated, including fluorine, substances that have favored the chemical transformation of the piece of paw and lapenetration of solutions rich in minerals. Precisely for this reason, very little remains of the original substances of the paw.