Fossils species are named after all sorts of things. Some titles say something about an essential trait of the animal. Others are references to rock stars. Some mean nothing at all. In the case of a Cretaceous lizard recently uncovered in Italy, the inspiration was wine.

Primitivus manduriensis, named after Primitivo di Manduria wine made in the region of Italy the reptile was recovered in, is a sinuous surprise. The nearly-complete skeleton is not only articulated, but also retains fossilized remnants of the lizard's muscles, cartilage, skin, and gut contents. As for as Cretaceous time capsules go, Primitivus is more detailed than most.

In the broader evolutionary picture, paleontologist Ilaria Paparella and colleagues write, Primitivus is a marine reptile belonging to a broader group called dolichosaurids. As you might guess from the reptile's somewhat lanky look, dolichosaurids are distant relatives of mosasaurs and snakes. 

But part of what makes Primitivus stand out - and why the genus name sticks - is because this reptile looks relatively archaic for its time and place. Dolichosaurids were thought to have gone extinct about 10 million years earlier, so, Paparella and coauthors suggest, the roughly 72 million-year-old Primitivus is a relict that represents a form of lizard that survived on the sidelines while its mosasaur cousins were ruling the aquatic realm. This also means that there have to be other, as-yet-unrecognized dolichosaurids out there awaiting discovery. Perhaps there will be enough to fill a wine cellar's-worth.

Name: Primitivus manduriensis

Meaning: The full name is a reference to a wine made near where the fossil was found, Primitivo di Manduria. 

Age: Cretaceous, about 72 million years old.

Where in the world?: Puglia, Italy.

What sort of organism?: A lizard belonging to a larger group called dolichosaurids and distantly related to mosasaurs and snakes.

How much of the organism’s is known?: A partial skeleton.

Reference:

Paparella, I., Palci, A., Nicosia, U., Caldwell, M. 2018. A new fossil marine lizard with soft tissues from the Late Cretaceous of southern Italy. Royal Society Open Science. doi: 10.1098/rsos.172411

More Paleo Profiles: 

The Light-Footed Lizard
The Maoming Cat
Knight’s Egyptian Bat
The La Luna Snake
The Rio do Rasto Tooth
Bob Weir's Otter
Egypt's Canine Beast
The Vastan Mine Tapir
Pangu's Wing
The Dawn Megamouth
The Genga Lizard
The Micro Lion
The Mystery Titanosaur
The Echo Hunter
The Lo Hueco Titan
The Three-Branched Cicada
The Monster of Minden
The Pig-Footed Bandicoot
Hayden's Rattlesnake Demon
The Evasive Ostrich Seer
The Paradoxical Mega Shark
The Tiny Beardogs
The Armored Fish King
North America's Pangolin
The Invisible-Tusked Elephant
The Mud Dragon
The Spike-Toothed Salmon
The Dream Coast Crocodile
Buriol's Robber
Ozimek's Flyer
The Northern Naustoceratopsian
The High Arctic Flyer
The Tomatillo From the End of the World
The Short-Faced Hyena
The Mighty Traveler from Egg Mountain
Keilhau's Ichthyosaur
Mexico's Ancient Horned Face
Mauricio Fernández's Plesiosaur
New Zealand's Giant Dawn Penguin
The Orange Sea Lion
Mongolia's Ginkgo Cousin
The Geni River Frog
Isabel Berry's Dinosaur
The Whale Caiman
The Moab Lizard
Yang Zhongjian's Lizard
The Little Anubis
The Shuangbai Lizard
The Wyvern Dinosaur
The "Need Helmet" Dinosaur
The Jianianhua Dragon
The Liaoning Hunter
The Dalian Lizard
Crompton's Aleodon
Jenkins' Amphibian Serpent From the Chinle
The Large Ancestor Lizard
The Crown Tooth
Currie's Alberta Hunter
The Elephant Bird Mimic
The Crested Thief
The Hiding Hunter
The Horned Lizard
The Silk Bird
The Sieve-Toothed Plesiosaur
The Defenseless Snout
Burian's Lizard
The Small Whaitsiid
The Beautiful Bird
The Fierce Cat
The Older One From Melksham
The King of the Miocene Iberian Giraffes
Miera's Lizard
The Traveling Sloth
The Sand Whale
Shouten's Marsupial Lion
The Rhaetian Lizard
The Mountain Dolphin
The Bryant's Shark
The Rainbow Dinosaur
Kootenay Bristle Worm
The Masaoura Lizard
The Chimera Spider
The Chad Cat
The Jinyun Shield
The Fish From China
The Sobrarbe Siren
The Shortened Face
The Climbing Dwarf
Martin's Sea Turtle
The Nonsense Beetle
The Stardust Beast