Alligator lizards of the genus Abronia are currently found in montane cloud forests and seasonally dry forests of Mexico and Central America. These physically striking and colorful lizards are popular among both scientists and the public and are increasingly recognized as conservation flagship taxa.
A recent study by MVZ postdoctoral fellow and UCMP affiliate Simon Scarpetta and coauthor David Ledesma describes the first fossil and only recognized extinct species of Abronia. The fossil was collected by members of the UCMP in the 1950s from Miocene sediments of the Cuyama Valley Badlands of southern California. This discovery demonstrates that the biogeographic distribution of Abronia has changed substantially from the Miocene to the present, adding to a growing body of fossil lizard findings that indicate unprecedented range shifts through geologic time. The fossil also possesses distinctive tall keels on its heavily armored osteoderms, which are bony plates within the skin of some lizards and other vertebrates.
Citation: Scarpetta SG, Ledesma DT. 2022. A strikingly ornamented fossil alligator lizard (Squamata: Abronia) from the Miocene of California. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, XX, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1093/zoolinnean/zlac024