Feb 01 2012
Old Westbury, N.Y. (February 1, 2012) ─ Could news about an 80 million-year-old poisonous lizard help a diabetic patient today?
“Learning anything new about the evolutionary history of a group may help us in unforeseen ways,” says Conrad, who recently published, with three other experts, a meticulous description of the fossil of the lizard Gobiderma pulchrum
in the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History
Conrad’s says his research shows the “remarkable interconnections” within the field of biology, along with the “mosaic nature” of anatomical evolution.
The lizard Conrad studied is known as a “transition fossil” for a group of lizards known by the fearsome name of Monstersauria.
Today, the Gila Monster and the Beaded Lizard are the chief representatives of this group of dangerous venomous lizards. They bite and chew on their prey or attackers, forcing venom out of their glands and through grooves in their lower-jaw teeth. The two-foot long Gobiderma existed in the stage immediately before this venom delivery system evolved.
Conrad said that some scientists are studying the use of Monstersaur venom to treat diabetes, making information about the lizard family tree relevant to research.
“Using newly found links from the fossil record may help us understand the evolutionary history of a group of organisms,” he said. “This may help us choose new organisms to study.”
Conrad traveled to Beijing, Paris, London, and Warsaw to study the lizard fossils. Closer to home, he studied new specimens at the American Museum of Natural History and then analyzed his data at NYCOM’s labs.
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