Scientists make odd discovery: Earliest snakes had feet and ankles
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A new study published in the science journal BMC Evolutionary Biology has revealed a startling fact about the ancestors of modern snakes, suggesting that the reptiles may have evolved from creatures that had feet and ankles around 128 million years ago on the super-continent of Laurasia, which was formed of North America and Eurasia.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Animals that we recognize as snakes today evolved 20 million years ago during the Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution, a time period which saw numerous booms in new animal populations.
This study was the first comprehensive look into the genealogy of snakes; researchers on the project analyzed DNA from fossils as well as the anatomy of 73 species of snakes and lizards.
They believe that these early snakes were nocturnal, evolved and lived on lamp, particularly in the warm, damp forests in the Southern Hemisphere.
Researchers "were able to take available data and backtrack through time to reconstruct what was the most likely behavior exhibited by the fossil snakes, given that the living snakes are behaving in this way," said the study's lead researcher, Allison Hsiang of Yale University.
These early snakes hunted during the night on "soft-bodied vertebrate and invertebrate prey," usually no larger than their heads, which they would constrict and swallow whole, using mouths filled with needle-like teeth to keep the prey from escaping. They also enjoyed "warm, well-watered and well-vegetated environments."
Early snakes were nocturnal for roughly 50 million years, but likely stopped as night temperatures began to drop and the early snakes were unable to regulate body temperatures.
Snakes may be so widespread because their early ancestors were successful travelers, able to live on both terrestrial and aquatic environments and travel roughly 42,500 square miles.
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