This fossil is known exclusively from the Messel Pit to date. Among its most striking characteristics are the large, heavily sculpted head and the extraordinarily long tail. Ornatocephalus metzleri is placed in the superfamily Scincoidea and is related to skinks and girdled lizards. The long prehensile tail, in connection with the curved claws and the proportions of its extremities, indicate an arboreal lifestyle. This reptile does not appear to have been a fast hunter, but rather an animal that fed on plants and occasionally on easily caught insects. To date, only six specimens of this species have been described.


  • Title: Fossile Großkopfechse
  • Location: Messel pit, Hesse, Germany
  • Type: original
  • Rights: Sven Tränkner Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung
  • size: 90 cm
  • scientific name: Ornatocephalus metzleri
  • geological Age: Eocene
  • age: 48 mil. years

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