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9 million years old fossil remains of lizards and snakes found in Himachal Pradesh

Scientists discovered fossils of lizards and snakes dating back to 9 million years ago in Himachal Pradesh (Pic. Courtesy PIB)

In a major find, scientists have found fossilised remains of lizards and snakes which belong to the late Miocene period in Himachal Pradesh, India dating back to 9.1 million years ago.

The discovery has been made in Haritalyangar in Bilaspur district of the State indicating the prevalence of a seasonally wet sub-humid to semi-arid climate in the region with a mean temperature that was between 15 to 18.6 degrees Celsius.

Belonging to the largest order of reptiles called squamates, lizards and snakes which are cold-blooded creatures are highly dependent on temperature and climatic conditions for their distribution and diversity. Thus, for scientists, these reptiles are considered as excellent indicators of climates that prevailed during the past.

The existence of lizards is vital as there are limited fossil records of this species in Asia while the fossil remains of pythons in South Asia is not much. Discovery of both the lizards and python indicates a wider distribution of these species in South Asia.

The team which documented the Varanus or lizards, a python, a colubrid or a snake and natricid, a type of viper in the area for the first time was led by Dr. Ningthoujam Premjit Singh of Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun . Others who were part of this study were Dr. Ramesh Kumar Sehgal and Abhishek Pratap Singh (WIHG), Dr. Rajeev Patnaik, Dr. Kewal Krishan and Shubham Deep from Panjab University, Chandigarh, Dr. Navin Kumar, Piyush Uniyal and Saroj Kumar from Indian Institute of Technology, Ropar in Punjab and Dr. Andrej Čerňanský from Comenius University in Slovakia.

Details of the study were published last month in the Geobios Journal.