110-million-year-old four-legged snake fossil found
A recently-discovered fossil from Brazil appears to show a snake with four legs. This is the first of its kind known to scientists, and at over 110 million years old, is the oldest snake fossil on record.
The snake's limbs are only a few millimeters in length, which would have made them useless for walking, but researchers believe they might have been used to grab prey or perhaps even mates, leading the new species to be dubbed Tetrapodophis amplectus, or "four-footed snake that embraces."
The snake's tiny limbs also provide evidence of adaptation for burrowing.
This further bolsters one side of a longstanding debate between paleontologists on whether snakes evolved from land lizards or their marine-dwelling cousins.
According to Dr. Nick Longrich, from the University of Bath and one of the authors of the study, it's one of the most primitive snake fossils ever found. He also believes its legs were, "...straight-up adapted for burrowing."
The study's findings were published in the journal Science.
The snake had been hiding in plain sight at the world-renowned Solnhofen Museum in Germany where it was labeled "unknown fossil."
Dr. Dave Martill, from the University of Portsmouth, the lead author of the study, noticed the snake while leading students on a routine field trip.
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