DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2023.2284 ISSN: 0962-8452

A Morrison stem gekkotan reveals gecko evolution and Jurassic biogeography

Dalton Meyer, Chase D. Brownstein, Kelsey M. Jenkins, Jacques A. Gauthier
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine

Geckos are a speciose and globally distributed clade of Squamata (lizards, including snakes and amphisbaenians) that are characterized by a host of modifications for nocturnal, scansorial and insectivorous ecologies. They are among the oldest divergences in the lizard crown, so understanding the origin of geckoes ( Gekkota ) is essential to understanding the origin of Squamata , the most species-rich extant tetrapod clade. However, the poor fossil record of gekkotans has obscured the sequence and timing of the assembly of their distinctive morphology. Here, we describe the first North American stem gekkotan based on a three-dimensionally preserved skull from the Morrison Formation of western North America. Despite its Late Jurassic age, the new species already possesses several key characteristics of the gekkotan skull along with retained ancestral features. We show that this new stem gekkotan, and several previously named species of uncertain phylogenetic relationships, comprise a widespread clade of early crown lizards, substantiating faunal homogeneity in Laurasia during the Late Jurassic that extended across disparate ecological, body-size and physiological classes.

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