The 240 million year old fossil of a previously unknown pygmy saurian was discovered in a quarry near Vellberg in Baden-Württemberg. "We have thus discovered a new species and genus," says paleontologist and study author Rainer Schoch. The find is a "scientific sensation". He and his team of researchers from the Stuttgart Museum of Natural History presented it in the scientific reports magazine (Sobral et al., 2020).

The researchers christened the find Vellbergia bartholomaei - after the place of discovery Vellberg and in honor of the fossil collector Alfred Bartholomä. It doesn't even measure ten centimeters. The bones and teeth of the reptile are sometimes only a few millimeters in size.

An ancestor of today's lizards

V. bartholomaei is probably one of the Lepidosauromorpha, one of the oldest lineage of the scaly lizard , which includes more than 10,000 species. "The little animal is exciting because we know little about the ancestors of lizards or snakes," explains Schoch. And it could provide new insights into the time before the dinosaurs were created. The researchers assume that the fossil is around 240 million years old, i.e. lived in the Triassic period. At that time today's lizards, turtles, crocodiles and also dinosaurs were created.

The paleontologists noticed the reptile's head in the clay layer of a former lake. Finds from the excavation site in Vellberg were able to provide important information on the origin of the turtles as early as 2015.