While on a routine museum field trip, a scientist discovered the fossilized remains of the first known legged snake. The experts believe the four-legged snake will help learn more about the evolution of snakes and how the reptiles lost their legs.
The scientist who discovered the four-legged snake fossils is Dave Martill, a researcher at the University of Portsmouth, who found the prehistoric skeleton in a German museum. Martill said the fossils suggest that snakes actually evolved from earth lizards and not water lizards. The fossilized remains of the snake were originally found in Brazil and date back to the Cretaceous period, more than 110 million years ago. According to the paleontologists, this is the oldest snake fossils ever found as well as the first four-legged snake fossils ever discovered.
Professor Martill said that snakes evolved from lizards a very long time ago, and this is generally accepted among scientists. However, the experts don’t really know when the snakes evolved, why and from what species of lizard they descended from. The recently discovered fossils provides answers to some highly important evolutionary questions, like the fact that it is clear now that snakes come from burrowing lizards, and not sea lizards.
Martill came across the four-legged snake fossils while visiting the Museum Solnhofen, which is famous for its impressive collection of fossils. He explained that the snake skeleton he discovered is part of a larger fossil exhibition that dates back to the Cretaceous Period.
Martill said that as soon as he saw it, he knew the fossil is of great importance for the paleontology world and belongs to a significant species of prehistoric serpent. He collaborated with Helmut Tischlinger, a paleontologist from Germany, who arranged and took photos of the fossils.
Nick Longrich, a researcher from the University of Bath’s Milner Centre for Evolution, was in charge of studying the evolutionary relationship of the specimen. According to him, a four-legged snake is something very important for an evolutionary biologist like himself. Longrich calls the recently found fossils “too good to be true”. He is still amazed by the fact that the fossils have been on display for a long time at the museum and no one really noticed how important it was.
The team of scientists named the four-legged snake Tetrapodophis amplectus, and according to them, the prehistoric serpent was 20 cm long and was a young specimen when it died.
Image Source: ndtv