A juvenile lizard specimen with well-preserved skin impressions from the Upper Jurassic/Lower Cretaceous of Daohugou, Inner Mongolia, China
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Lizards are now relatively well known from the Yixian Formation of northeastern China. In this study, we describe a juvenile lizard from a fossil horizon at Daohugou, Inner Mongolia. These beds predate the Yixian Formation, and are probably Late Jurassic or earliest Cretaceous in age. The new specimen thus documents the first lizard material from the Daohugou locality and is the earliest lizard skeleton from China. Comparisons with developmental stages of modern lizards suggest the Daohugou lizard is a hatchling. Although tiny, the specimen is notable in preserving exquisite skin impressions showing the variation in scalation across the body, the shape and position of the cloacal outlet, and details of the manus and pes. These are the earliest recorded lepidosaurian skin traces. In its general proportions and the possession of paired frontals, the small Daohugou lizard resembles both the Yixian taxon Yabeinosaurus tenuis and the questionable Jeholacerta formosa, but it differs from the latter in scalation and, based on other characters, may be distinct from both.