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Since it’s April Fool’s Day, and Tumblr is sending images of lizards screaming across all our dashboards at hyper-light speeds, I thought it would be a good time to talk about a lizard who April Fooled the entire paleontological community, long before the Mop/Wretched Tooth divide threatened to send our sociopolitical infrastructure crumbling to the ground.

Is it a tenuous connection?  Yeah, but I was gonna make this post anyway, so live with it!

Longisquama lived during the Triassic Period, 235 million years ago, in modern-day Kyrgyzstan.  It might have been a lizard, as I asserted above, but its place within Reptilia is actually quite uncertain; the only thing known for certain is that Longisquama is a “diapsid reptile”, meaning it could be a squamate, a rhynchocephalian, a crocodilian, or a pre-dinosaur.

Longisquama is distinguished by the row of strange appendanges growing from its back.  The purpose of these appendages is uncertain, and has long been the subject of much paleontological debate.

The most iconic version of Longisquama depicts it with twin rows of appendages, rather than the single row preserved in the only known fossil specimen, and shows it using these twin wing-like structures to glide.  While this is almost certainly not the case, numerous supposedly serious paleontologists – including Dougal Dixon, speculative evolution writer and long-time peddler of insane made-up garbage – have espoused the theory that Longisquama is the true ancestor of birds.

This makes absolutely zero sense from an anatomical perspective, and was essentially nothing more than a very convenient way for a bunch of die-hard dinosaur traditionalists to deny that birds were the descendants of dinosaurs.  Even so, this debate raged on until the shockingly recent year of 2006.

At that time, new studies of the single Longisquama fossil found that the appendages weren’t part of the animal’s body at all.

It was fossilized in front of a plant.