First fossilized snake embryo ever discovered rewrites history of ancient snakes

First fossilized snake embryo ever discovered rewrites history of ancient snakes

The remains of a baby snake found preserved in amber from Myanmar are estimated to be 99 million years old. The discovery is important because it revealed that snakes may have moved to forests from coastal regions earlier than previously thought, among other things. The amber was found by workers in Myanmar quarries near the Chinese border.

The baby snake is missing its skull, which would have provided much more information about the animal's ecology, feeding habitats, and relationships to other snakes, Scanlon notes.

Lead Image: This hatchling snake captured in amber is described as a new species named Xiaophis myanmarensis. They came to the conclusion that almost 100 million years anatomical features of the serpent's spine has changed slightly. A technique called synchrotron x-ray micro-computed tomography allowed the researchers to get a close look at the tiny specimens inside the amber without having to break them apart. It appears the animals were more widely spread than previously thought, though the researchers caution more specimens are needed before they can determine routes of slithery migration across the Southern Hemisphere supercontinent of Gondwana.

The amber fragment in which the specimen was found also provided important clues about its environment. It is unclear whether the snake was an embryo or a newborn, but tiny bones alongside a large spinal cord tube suggest that the baby was still developing.

A delicate baby snake with a remarkably well-preserved skeletal structure is the first of its kind ever found fossilized in amber.

Scales are visible in a preserved snake skin fragment from one of the snake fossils.

First fossilized snake embryo ever discovered rewrites history of ancient snakes
First fossilized snake embryo ever discovered rewrites history of ancient snakes

Ryan McKellar, a paleontologist from the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada and an author on the paper, said the fossilized snakeskin was trapped along with plants, cockroaches and insect droppings.

"This snake is linked to ancient snakes from Argentina, Africa, India and Australia."

Through continental drift, Myanmar eventually separated from Gondwana and drifted north, until it collided with Asia.

Michael Caldwell is a snake paleontologist at the University of Alberta who also co-authored the study. Upon further inspection, Xing concluded that it was in fact the skin of snake. Lida Xing et all.

"The scales of the snake are diamond-shaped or ovoid diamond-shaped, with deep lines formed by skin between each scale". The scientists aren't quite sure why or how the snake was decapitated, inviting images of a dinosaur chomping down on the pint-sized snake as it tried its best to escape, but it's equally likely that the remains of the snake had begun to fall apart before the tree sap managed to smother it.

"No enlarged ventral scales can be observed".

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