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angrycrustacean

Snake with legs found

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NEW YORK - A fossil find in Argentina has revealed a two-legged creature that's the most primitive snake known, a discovery that promises to fire up the scientific debate about whether snakes evolved on land or in the sea.

The snake's anatomy and the location of the fossil show it lived on land, researchers said, adding evidence to the argument that snakes evolved on land.

Snakes are thought to have evolved from four-legged lizards, losing their legs over time. But scientists have long debated whether those ancestral lizards were land-based or marine creatures.

The newly found snake lived in Patagonia 90 million years ago. Its size is unknown, but it wasn't more than 3 feet long, said Hussam Zaher of the University of São Paulo in Brazil. He and an Argentine colleague report the find in today's issue of the journal Nature.

It's the first time scientists have found a snake with a sacrum, a bony feature supporting the pelvis, Zaher said. That feature was lost as snakes evolved from lizards, he said, and since this is the only known snake that hasn't lost it, it must be the most primitive known.

The creature clearly lived on land, both because its anatomy suggests it lived in burrows and because the deposits where the fossils were found came from a terrestrial environment, Zaher said. So, if the earliest known snake lived on land, that suggests snakes evolved on land, he said.

Zaher said although the creature had two small rear legs, it crawled like a modern-day snake and probably used its legs only on occasion, though for what purpose is unclear.

The creature, named Najash rionegrina, is ``a fantastic animal,'' said Jack Conrad, a researcher at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and co-curator of an upcoming exhibit on lizards and snakes.

``It's really going to help put to rest some of the controversy that's been going around snake evolution and origins,'' he said. Conrad said he never took sides in the land vs. sea debate, ``but this is starting to convince me.''

The creature's name comes from a Hebrew word for snake and the Rio Negro province of Argentina, where the discovery was made.

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I just read about this on Mexico Google News. Interesting...

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:yes: Pythons are the most primitive of modern snakes except for the Sunbeam snake of India. Pythons have vestigial limbs and rely on constriction to bring down prey. Scientists believe that venom is present only in more advanced snakes.

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Well, that kinda breaks the rewrites the definition of snake! cool anyway

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The fact that snakes had legs is ancient. My dad used to tell me about it. Memories, memories. Anyway, the legs shrunk and right now, some might have tiny stubs.

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