Science puts snakes on a plain

2012-07-25 21:35


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - Snakes evolved their curious body shape on land, not in water, and are probably the descendants of small burrowing lizards, scientists have deducted from 70-million-year-old fossil remains.

Closely examining jaw, tooth and spinal fragments of Coniophis, biologists in the United States concluded it was the most primitive animal of its kind - the missing link in snake evolution.

They found that Coniophis was "a transitional snake, combining a snake-like body and a lizard-like head" with burrowing habits - suggesting it evolved from a land-dwelling lizard.

The beast had an elongated body with hooked snake-like teeth, and most likely fed on medium-sized, soft-bodied prey.

It did not have the flexible jaws that allow modern-day snakes to swallow prey many times their own body size.

"This thing quite probably would have had small legs," Yale University co-author Nicholas Longrich told AFP, adding it would have looked more like a snake than a lizard.

Published in Nature, the paper seeks to settle a longstanding scientific debate as to whether snakes evolved their elongated, slithering body as an adaptation for burrowing in soil or for swimming.

The disagreement partly arose from a lack of transitional animal fossils to study, with Coniophis hitherto overlooked, said the paper.

Longrich said the first Coniophis remains were discovered in Montana in the 1890s and more fragments in the 1950s, but had mostly been left to gather dust in a museum since then.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    nature  |  us  |  reptiles

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36 publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

Wallabies 'defend like dogs'
Loubscher expecting 'direct' Wales
Carter desperate to reach RWC final
Boks want to continue upward curve
Traffic Alerts

You may find it hard to focus on the mundane routines as the greener pastures seem so tempting. It is a good time to expand more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.