A gliding lizard from the Early Cretaceous of China.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Mar 27; 104(13):5507-9.PN
Gliding is an energetically efficient mode of locomotion that has evolved independently, and in different ways, in several tetrapod groups. Here, we report on an acrodontan lizard from the Early Cretaceous Jehol Group of China showing an array of morphological traits associated with gliding. It represents the only known occurrence of this specialization in a fossil lizard and provides evidence of an Early Cretaceous ecological diversification into an aerial niche by crown-group squamates. The lizard has a dorsal-rib-supported patagium, a structure independently evolved in the Late Triassic basal lepidosauromorph kuehneosaurs and the extant agamid lizard Draco, revealing a surprising case of convergent evolution among lepidosauromorphans. A patagial character combination of much longer bilaterally than anteroposteriorly, significantly thicker along the leading edge than along the trailing edge, tapered laterally to form a wing tip, and secondarily supported by an array of linear collagen fibers is not common in gliders and enriches our knowledge of gliding adaptations among tetrapods.