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Volume 597 Issue 7875, 9 September 2021

Filling the gaps

The cover features an artist’s impression of a newly discovered lizard-like creature from the Triassic named Taytalura alcoberi. The fossil record representing reptile evolution is somewhat patchy when it comes to lepidosaurs — the group that encompasses squamates (lizards and snakes) and sphenodontians (such as tuataras). In this week’s issue, Ricardo Martínez and his colleagues help to plug the gaps with the fossilized skull of Taytalura, discovered in Argentina and dating to some 230 million years ago. The well-preserved skull represents a lineage that evolved before the split between squamates and sphenodontians, thus representing one of the earliest known lepidosaurs. The researchers note that Taytalura’s skull shares features with modern tuataras, suggesting that several anatomical features, presumed to be found only in sphenodontians, must have originated early in lepidosaur evolution.

Cover image: Jorge Blanco

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