New Fossil Tells Of A Terrestrial Origin For Snakes
Posted by Supersquatch , in Science vs. Religion 31 July 2012 · 974 views
<p>Snakes are a group of lizards most closely related to monitors (such as the Komodo dragon) and prehistoric mosasaurs. But their origins are difficult to trace due to a lack of fossil remains. In fact, paleontologists are not even sure if snakes were originally terrestrial or aquatic animals. One of the first snakes to evolve was a Cretaceous aniliid (the family of false coral snakes, also known as pipe snakes) called Coniophis precedens.
The skeletal remains of Coniophis precedensC. precedens was known only, until recently, from an isolated vertebra, making it hard for paleontologists to study the actual taxon. However, a new paper in the journal Nature describes new material to this species, including a mandible, an upper jaw fragment and more vertebrae. It also seems that precedens lived in a continental floodplain environment, consistent with that of a terrestrial origin. Furthermore, its small size and reduced neural spines suggest that snakes may have evolved from burrowing lizards.
- Longrich, N.R., Bhullar, B.S., Gauthier, J.A. (2012). "A transitional snake from the Late Cretaceous period of North America". Nature, in press. DOI: 10.1038/nature11227