During a recent discovery, scientists have identified a four-legged snake fossil in Brazil shedding light for the first time on the looks and behavior of the ancestral relatives of the modern snakes. Tetrapodophis, as the snake has been named, if the first exemplar with four legs – a discovery that enabled scientists to further study this species.
Scientists seem to gather more evidence each day that snakes have evolved on the ground and not in the water. The recent identification of a four-legged snake fossil in Brazil is yet another proof that this species used tiny limbs to travel on the ground.
The newly discovered fossil is different to the ones that have been unearthed previously. So far, scientists have only had the opportunity to work with two-legged fossils, but now the evolution of snakes is becoming increasingly clearer, due to the four-legged snake skeleton.
Paleobiologist David Martill from the University of Portsmouth was the one who first discovered the fossil in a museum in Germany. The analysis that he has performed on the fossil indicates that the snake lived approximately 110 million years ago on the territory of Brazil.
The scientist has further declared that the skeleton has been incredibly well preserved allowing researchers to conduct additional studies on it. Based on the description provided by Martill, the snake is 20cm long, while its legs measure around 1cm.
The studies that researchers have later on made were focused primarily on understanding how the snake used its limbs and for what purposes. Martill and his colleagues have, thus, concluded that it is very unlikely that these legs were used for walking on the ground because they are very long compared to the ones of other snakes.
It is more likely that these Brazil-based exemplars used their small legs to grasp their prey and kill it. The position of the limbs is also a strong indicator of this killing tactic. Two limbs are located right after the snake’s head, whereas the other two were found towards the fossil’s tail.
Another interesting discovery is the fact that researchers have found bones in the snake’s stomach. This discovery has further suggested experts that snakes could have become carnivorous at a much earlier stage in their evolution.
The family tree that the British group of researchers have created was used to determine the ancient snake’s position in history. Archeologists have concluded that the 110-million year old fossil gave birth to the modern snakes we know today.
Image source: reptilesmagazine.com