Scientists solve how snakes lost their legs
By T.K. Randall
November 28, 2015 · 11 comments
Snakes were not always completely limbless. Image Credit: PD - Whkoh
Researchers have revealed that snakes lost their limbs when they began living and hunting in burrows.
The findings were based on new CT scans of Dinilysia patagonica - a relative of modern snakes which lived around 90 million years ago and grew up to two meters in length.
By comparing its interior canals and cavities with those of several modern species, the scientists were able to determine that burrowing animals exhibited a distinct inner ear structure that was different to that of animals which did not burrow at all.
By analyzing the fossils it became possible to find a correlation between the time at which snakes lost their limbs and the time at which they started to live and hunt in burrows.
"How snakes lost their legs has long been a mystery to scientists, but it seems that this happened when their ancestors became adept at burrowing," said lead scientist Dr Hongyu Yi.
"The inner ears of fossils can reveal a remarkable amount of information, and are very useful when the exterior of fossils are too damaged or fragile to examine."
Source: Irish Examiner
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