Oldest snake fossil discovery takes clock back by 70 million years

An interesting work by a team of scientists takes back the time scale of snake evolution by 70 million years. Michael Caldwel, a professor from the University of Alberta, directed the team towards this fascinating discovery. They found four fossils of ancient snakes and described their details in this study.

The study of evolution of the snakes is quite complex. Another significant problem is no fossils were found for the snakes that existed 140 to 100 million years ago. Thus there remains a significant knowledge gap for future investigations, explained Caldwel.


Eophis underwoodi is known to be the oldest snake found in Southern England. It probably lived nearly 167 million years ago. The size of the snake was quite small, indicating a possibility of the snake being young when died. The second one in the list is Diablophis gilmorei. It lived 155 million years back, in the riverside of the place now called Colorado. Portugalophis lignites found during the same time, is the largest snake that was a resident of present Portugal. Parviraptor estesi the youngest one amongst all; existed 140 million years ago. It was found in a lake situated in the Western Europe. Caldwel said these snakes preferred living close to water sources.

Caldwel further suggested that it is very much possible that the snakes survived by eating young dinosaurs and their eggs. These snakes lived in an environment where terodactyls, crocodiles, various lizards, amphibians, different types of fishes were all present and many of these species survived by praying on each other.


The existing records from the fossils suggested that snakes underwent a massive radiation about 100 million years ago, a process enabled the evolution of modern day snakes with their specific characteristic features. The ancestor of snakes is thought to be some form of lizards. These lizards gradually lost the limbs, shoulder girdles and breastbones in the natural course of evolution.

The study concluded stating there remains a strong possibility of discovering even older snakes in the near future.