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My name is Jack L. Conrad and I published a paper in PLOS ONE about my discovery of a new fossil Babibasiliscus, which is the earliest known species of casquehead, also known as “Jesus lizard” – Ask Me Anything!
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Hi Reddit, My name is Jack L. Conrad and I am an Assistant Professor at NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine and a Research Associate at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). My research focuses on the evolution, morphology, and paleontology of modern and living snakes, amphisbaenians, mosasaurs, and other ‘lizards’ (Squamata). Squamates first appeared around 245 million years ago, have a good fossil record for the last 155 million years, and today include more than 9700 living species; that’s alotta Squamata! One of the most difficult problems in understanding squamate evolution is snake origins. We know that many branches of the lizard family tree lost their limbs – there are limbess geckoes, limbless skinks, limbless cousins to the Komodo Dragon, etc. – but we don’t know from which branch of the lizard family tree snakes come. It’s really become quite a headache, but also a fun area for investigation. Studying this problem, and other areas of squamate evolution, leads scientists like myself to understanding other natural science questions and phenomena, including (but certainly not limited to): What was Earth like at various times in the past? Are there physical constraints on how big a lizard can be on land? In the seas? How did lizards move across the planet as they evolved over time? I recently published a study titled “A new Eocene casquehead lizard (Reptliia, Corytophanidae) from North America” in PLOS ONE. This study described the earliest known species of casquehead, or Jesus lizard, known. Importantly, this animal lived in Wyoming when the planet was much warmer than it is now and because its modern relatives live only in the tropics, it raises questions about what might happen if our planet warmed up a few degrees. I will be answering your questions at 1pm ET. Ask Me Anything! I love everything about reptiles and evolution. I may not have all of your answers, but I will certainly enjoy talking with you about all of your questions! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @ammoskius.