First fossilized snake embryo ever discovered rewrites history of ancient snakes

21 July, 2018, 19:10 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • Snake fossil

At less than two inches long, the snake is very tiny and hard to see clearly with the naked eye, but the x-ray scans allowed the team to carefully study the shape and position of its bones, including a remarkable 97 vertebrae or backbones.

That skin hasn't been confirmed by the researchers as coming from a snake, but when compared to modern specimens, the scale-like markings look pretty close to that of a snake.

Both fossils are 100-million-years-old and have been dated to the Upper Cretaceous, before the time of the Tyrannosaurus rex. "No one has ever seen fossils of such small snakes". The fossil is made up of about 97 bones and represents half the vertebrae of an intact snake that was either a newborn or a fetus. The Cretaceous period lasted about 186 million years, when dinosaurs existed."Means two very important scientific implications and conclusion from the discovery of such fossils - said Professor Michael Caldwell of the University of Alberta - due to the fact that it was a baby, and due to the fact that the now existing scientific technology allow us to see the smallest details of the things inside them, and we can depict the anatomy of the sperm of the snake and look into it and compare his bones with the bones may close in part of the living serpent". The scientists aren't quite sure why or how the snake was decapitated, inviting images of a dinosaur chomping down on the pint-sized snake as it tried its best to escape, but it's equally likely that the remains of the snake had begun to fall apart before the tree sap managed to smother it.

Its skeleton, which is missing its skull, is only 4.75 centimetres long.

The authors findings have named a new species of snake Xiaophis myanmarensis. The age of the snake in the fossil also makes it very important in understanding how ancient snake embryos matured.

The second fossil, however, has remained unidentified, as the researchers haven't been able to pinpoint whether the skin fragments belong to the same snake species. Lida Xing et all.

Snake skin

During the early Late Cretaceous from 100 million to 95 million years ago, snakes roamed all over the world.

If it is indeed snakeskin, National Geographic reports, it would be the first ever discovered in amber. Caldwell stated that the snake was found in a mine that was just opened two or three years ago.

"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.

"I've learned critical details about snake development".

"There are no adequately preserved snakes that are significantly older, anywhere", comments paleontologist John Scanlon at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

The discovery suggests snakes were more ecologically diverse than previously thought and provides "exceptional and unexpected insights into the evolution of one of nature's most successful and iconic animal groups", according to the study published Wednesday.

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