First Baby Snake From Dinosaur Era Found Trapped In Amber

Posted: Jul 22 2018, 4:17am CDT | by , Updated: Jul 22 2018, 4:24am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
First Baby Snake from Dinosaur Era Found Trapped in Amber
Credit: Ming Bai/Chinese Academy of Sciences

Nearly a hundred million old fossilized snake offers insight into the evolution of modern reptiles

An ancient baby snake fossil has been found preserved in amber. The fossil is approximately 99 million years old and provides the first direct evidence of snakes living in dinosaur era. The unexpected discovery also sheds new light on evolution of modern snakes.

“No one has ever seen a fossilized baby snake of any kind whatsoever. And having this one be nearly a hundred million old is really quite amazing” said lead author and paleontologist Michael Caldwell from University of Alberta. “It is an important – and until now, missing – component of understanding snake evolution from southern Continents, that is Gondwana, in the mid-Mesozoic.”

Snakes are among the most fascinating creatures on the planet. But how they evolved has been something of a mystery to scientists because of the lack of ancient snake fossils.

The newfound snake, named Xiaophis myanmarensis, lived in what is now Myanmar and is only about 2 inches in length. The life of the baby snake was cut short when it stuck in the tree sap. The sap turned into amber over time. The piece of amber in which the specimen was found also holds important clues about its environment.

“It is clear that this little snake was living in a forested environment with numerous insects and plants, as these are preserved in the clast,” said Caldwell. “Not only do we have the first baby snake, we also have the first definitive evidence of a fossil snake living in a forest.”

When researchers scanned the ancient snake and compared it with modern counterparts, they found new incredible information on the evolution of modern snakes.

“All of these data refine our understanding of early snake evolution, as 100-million year-old snakes are known from only 20 or so relatively complete fossil snake species," said Caldwell. “There is a great deal of new information preserved in this new fossilized baby snake.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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