The origin of the reptiles lies about 310–320 million years ago, in the steaming swamps of the late Carboniferous period, when the first reptiles evolved from advanced reptiliomorphs. The oldest known animal that may have been an amniote is Casineria (though it may have been a temnospondyl). A series of footprints from the fossil strata of Nova Scotia dated to 315 Mya show typical reptilian toes and imprints of scales. These tracks are attributed to Hylonomus, the oldest unquestionable reptile known. It was a small, lizard-like animal, about 20 to 30 centimetres (7.9 to 11.8 in) long, with numerous sharp teeth indicating an insectivorous diet. Other examples include Westlothiana (for the moment considered a reptiliomorph rather than a true amniote) and Paleothyris, both of similar build and presumably similar habit. Rise of the reptiles. The earliest amniotes, including stem-reptiles (those amniotes closer to modern reptiles than to mammals), were largely overshadowed by larger stem-tetrapods, such as Cochleosaurus, and remained a small, inconspicuous part of the fauna until the Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse. This sudden collapse affected several large groups. Primitive tetrapods were particularly devastated, while stem-reptiles fared better, being ecologically adapted to the drier conditions that followed. Primitive tetrapods, like modern amphibians, need to return to water to lay eggs; in contrast, amniotes, like modern reptiles – whose eggs possess a shell that allows them to be laid on land – were better adapted to the new conditions. Amniotes acquired new niches at a faster rate than before the collapse and at a much faster rate than primitive tetrapods. They acquired new feeding strategies including herbivory and carnivory, previously only having been insectivores and piscivores. From this point forward, reptiles dominated communities and had a greater diversity than primitive tetrapods, setting the stage for the Mesozoic (known as the Age of Reptiles). One of the best known early stem-reptiles is Mesosaurus, a genus from the early Permian that had returned to water, feeding on fish.
Alligator mississippiensis Scute & Teeth fossils, USA Fossil dermal scutes and Teeth from Alligators. These scute fossils are identified by the ridge along the middle of the scute and pitted surface. Teeth are nearly always conical and domed shaped. All below belong to Alligator mississippiensis sp and are dated to between 1.0 and 1.5 Million years old.