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Prehistoric four-legged snake discovered

By T.K. Randall
July 24, 2015 · Comment icon 10 comments

Some scientists now believe that snakes evolved from burrowing lizards. Image Credit: PD - Whkoh
Scientists have unearthed the fossil remains of a strange species of snake with four tiny limbs.
Dating back 120 million years, the specimen belonged to a species called Tetrapodophis amplectus and was found within the fossil-rich Crato formation in the Brazilian state of Ceará.

Even though primitive snakes with partially formed hind legs have been discovered before, this particular specimen is very unusual because it features a full set of four limbs.

"It has very snake-like vertebrae, it has a body longer than the tail, it has hundreds of vertebrae, it has the remains of other vertebrate animals in the stomach and so it was a carnivore," said palaeontologist David Martill. "All these things make it a snake."

The legs however are very small and were unlikely to have served much of a functional purpose.
Some scientists now believe that this peculiar specimen points to the likelihood that snakes evolved from burrowing lizards, making Tetrapodophis a unique transitional species between the two.

There is however much disagreement over whether this is actually the case.

"I honestly do not think the fossil represents the remains of a snake," said palaeontologist Michael Caldwell. "It completely lacks key features of the vertebral column that would make it a squamate [scaled reptile] and more specifically a snake."

"I think the specimen is important, but I do not know what it is."

Source: New Scientist | Comments (10)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by seeder 7 years ago
We can see this in action too Australian lizards called skinks are dropping their limbs to become more like snakes. And, according to a genetic family tree, some skinks have gone snaky in just 3.6 million years, relatively fast in evolutionary time. Scientists said the skinks' lifestyle appears to be driving the change: They spend most of their time swimming through sand or soil. Limbs are not only unnecessary for this, they may be a hindrance. Once a skink goes snaky, they never go back, the researchers add. One of the snakelike skinks is shown here. [More]
Comment icon #2 Posted by OverSword 7 years ago
Some people don't believe in evolution. I wonder what they would make of this?
Comment icon #3 Posted by BeastieRunner 7 years ago
Great. Snakes fast enough to catch you once you run away from them. Just what I needed.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Sundew 7 years ago
Some of the scientists in the article are not convinced the specimen is a snake, though they admit the teeth are snakelike. Living boas and pythons have two tiny vestigial rear limbs in the males, used for stimulating the females during mating. And many lizards are limbless, there is a native one where I live that's quite common. So limbs or lack thereof do not necessarily identify the animal.
Comment icon #5 Posted by taniwha 7 years ago
Some people don't believe in evolution. I wonder what they would make of this? If its losing its limbs its dissolving NOT evolving of course!
Comment icon #6 Posted by Yes_Man 7 years ago
The only reason i can think of is to why, maybe at the time it was very hot and the lizards couldnt handle the heat and there was more food below the earth than on land
Comment icon #7 Posted by Kiltedmusician 7 years ago
People who don't believe in evolution would be reminded of what it says in Genisis; Gen 3:14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: Which means that at one time snakes did not crawl on their stomachs, requiring legs.
Comment icon #8 Posted by DieChecker 7 years ago
Some people don't believe in evolution. I wonder what they would make of this? It is interesting that many people who don't believe in evolution DO believe in natural selection and adaptation on the smaller time scale.
Comment icon #9 Posted by ouija ouija 7 years ago
At the risk of repeating myself : it's a DRAGON!
Comment icon #10 Posted by qxcontinuum 7 years ago
so they found a lizard

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