The Best of 2015 // #99: The First Snake

Best of 2015

Back in 2011 a field trip to a german museum yielded an unknown fossil. Publishing the findings in July, Paleobioloist David Martill identified the specimen as a snake with legs.

 READ MORE // The End of All Things

The team noted four separate legs on the 272-vertebrate Tetrapodophis Amplectus – ‘four-legged hugging snake’ – with the front legs being half the size of the back legs. The team, led by Martill, suspect that the legs were used for mating or seizing prey.

Four Legged Snake

Some experts do not believe the 120-million year old specimen is a ‘Proto-snake’, but Martill and his team identified several features exclusive to snakes – a single row of belly of scales, teeth welded directly to the jaw, and those teeth are directed backwards.

“It is generally accepted that snakes evolved from lizards at some point in the distant past. What scientists don’t know yet is when they evolved, why they evolved, and what type of lizard they evolved from. This fossil answers some very important questions, for example it now seems clear to us that snakes evolved from burrowing lizards, not from marine lizards….
“Our specimen suggest that snakes achieve many of their snakelike features before the legs disappeared”

The fossil could shed light on an age-old debate over whether snakes evolved from land or marine reptiles.

According to Martill, the specimen’s claws and lengthy phalanges are likely more suited to burrowing rather than paddling.

There’s 99 more stories from 2015.  Check out the Best of 2015 series here

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