Paleontologists say they have found fossils of two entwined lizards in Nova Scotia, providing the earliest known evidence of parental care. The fossils are 300 million years old.
Even lizards that lived hundreds of millions of years ago cared for their young, paleontologists believe, after finding what they said is the earliest known sign of parental coddling.
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In an article published on Monday in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, fossil hunters Hillary Maddin, Arjan Mann and Brian Hebert said they had found fossils of two limbed vertebrates entwined in a particularly fossil-rich region of Nova Scotia, Canada.
The two varanopid lizard fossils are approximately 300 million years old. That makes them some 40 million years older than fossils that previously showed the earliest evidence of parental care — also from the varanopid lizard and found in South Africa.
The finding suggests that parental care is more deeply rooted and more widespread in the history of life than previously thought. Parental care is usually defined as any behavior where adults help their young to survive.
"[The adult] probably would have been about 20cm [8 inches] in length from the tip of the snout to the base of its tail, and it would have had a long tail," Maddin told The Guardian newspaper.
"These very fragile fossils, especially the baby, are preserved in a very natural-like position and would have to have been buried very quickly," Maddin added.