Baby Snake Preserved In Amber Is Unprecedented Find - Dead Things : Dead Things

Katie Ramirez
July 22, 2018

The piece of amber containing a piece of snake skin could be just as intriguing, but researchers said because it is so small it is hard to determine whether it was shed from the same snake or from a larger snake.

The research saw the collaboration of and worldwide team that included the China University of Geosciences, the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Midwestern University, the South Australian Museum, Flinders University, the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, the University of Regina, the Paleo-Dairy Museum of Natural History and the Beijing Forestry University. At 99 million years old, the fossil is also the oldest snake known from a forested environment, paleontologists revealed today in the journal Science Advances.

"Whether or not these early snakes were giving live birth, which is common in modern snakes, or whether they were hatching from eggs, is unclear", said Caldwell to National Geographic.

Professor Michael Caldwell, from the University of Alberta in Canada, who specialises in studying ancient snakes and lizard, said: 'The baby is unquestionably a snake...

Also found another amber with fossilized remains of the skin of larger snakes.

The researchers determined the fossilized snake was either an embryo or a newborn based on the development of its spinal cord.

The tectonic rearrangement that followed the breakup of Gondwana helped early snakes migrate across the globe - across Africa, Madagascar, Australia, India and Myanmar.

First fossilized snake embryo ever discovered rewrites history of ancient snakes

University of Alberta paleontologists worked with global scientists to study the ancient embryo, which was discovered in Myanmar.

The body of the little creature is now missing its head.

The piece of amber described in the study was originally privately owned and was later donated to the museum of the Dexu Institute of Palaeontology, near Beijing, where the researchers were able to analyze it, Caldwell said.

The snake skeleton, less than five centimetres long, is nearly complete except for the skull.

"There are no adequately preserved snakes that are significantly older, anywhere", comments paleontologist John Scanlon at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

The pieces of amber also revise our understanding of the global distribution of snakes by the early Late Cretaceous. They've spread across all continents except Antarctica, and number roughly 2,900 different species. This means that snakes may have already been a part of more prehistoric ecosystems. However, finding one snake in Burmese amber suggests that there are probably more waiting to be discovered and studied, he adds.

A detailed view of X-ray micro-CT rendering of skeletal material in specimen of Xiaophis myanmarensis specimen.

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