Four-Legged Snake Fossil Hints Burrowing Ancestors

Posted: Jul 24 2015, 6:02am CDT | by , Updated: Jul 24 2015, 7:05am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Four-Legged Snake Fossil Hints Burrowing Ancestors
  • Serpentine Fossil Shows Evidence of Four Legs

A recently excavated fossil of a serpentine creature shows evidence of four legs. This lends credence to the view that snakes developed from subterranean creatures.

An ancient snake shows the presence of four legs in its bodily repertoire. This is a clue that suggests that snakes evolved from burrowing animals rather than sea creatures.

Unearthed from Brazil’s Crato Formation, the curious animal offers us many an illuminating view into how the quadrupeds managed to make it to the stage where they resembled smooth, sliding reptiles. The snakes we know today are creatures we definitely stay away from. That is because many of them are downright dangerous.

After studying the genome sequences of this ancient animal and analyzing four different cases, the conclusion was reached that this fossil did indeed belong to an early predecessor of the snake.

Termed Tetrapodophis amplectus, this species thrived during the Cretaceous Period many millions of years ago. Several of the details of physiognomy that this prototypical snake possesses are like its modern counterpart.

The shortened mouth, elongated cranium, lengthy frame, scales, pointed razor-sharp fangs and agile jawbone are just some of the features that match the current evolved form of this age-old reptile.

The flexible backbone of this lengthy thing we modernists call a snake is present in the original fossil species too. The elongated structure allows for the way the reptile tightens its coils around its prey.

It is another debate altogether that the limbs of the fossil snake were not used for movement. Rather they were gripping agents. They were employed while hunting or having sex. The proof is clear as the light of day. Snakes didn’t evolve from marine creatures. These sinuous creeping animals actually came from burrowing creatures.

Other fossils of proto-snakes have been exhumed from the site as well. They all point towards the existence of four limbs, two of which are long, while two are short. But one thing which is certain is that the appendages never had the purpose of wading through or swimming in water.

They were exclusively for going down self-made wormholes. That the snake was a land animal right from the start and not a water-traversing creature is the new theory. Even the tail was not of the sort that is used for traveling in an aquatic environment.

The four limbs were rudimentary organs that withered away like the appendix did in case of man. This fossil is the oldest of its kind and it has transformed our view of this slithering and slimy reptile that inspires so much fear in mankind.

The study published in the journal Science.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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