Snake hiss-tory reveals presence of tiny hind limbs, with complete ankles & toes

A recently conducted study has indicated that the snakes that live today might have had ancestors with toes and tiny ankles. According to the researchers involved in the said study, those ancestors of modern snakes existed in the same prehistoric era as the dinosaurs.

A member of the research team Daniel Field of Yale University, United States, said that analyses carried out by him and his team indicate that the most recent ancestors of modern snakes most likely didn’t have any forelimb, but had small hind limbs with proper toes and ankles.

Field further said that those prehistoric creatures seem to have evolved first on land and not in the sea. These two conclusions were drawn by the researchers, according to Field, resolve the old debates on origin of snakes.

The discovery made during this new study has also allowed researchers to prepare a fresh serpent family tree. The researchers have perused as many as 3,400 modern snake species for preparing this fresh family tree. This has been possible because, in spite of being a cause of real distaste for most of us, snakes are categorized as one of the most recognizable vertebrates our planet has.

Credit: Julius T. Csotonyi
Credit: Julius T. Csotonyi

Allison Hsiang, a co-author of the study and another representative of the Yale University, stated that although the origin of these reptiles have been a topic of discussions and debates since a long time, this is the first time these hypotheses are getting tested thoroughly based on advanced methodologies.

Another major revelation made by the research team is: snakes might have evolved throughout the forested ecosystems in southern hemisphere around 128.5 million years back. Hsiang informed that analysis of fossils, anatomy, and genes of 73 different lizard and snake species, both extinct and living, has helped him and his team to come up with the first ever complete reconstruction of ancestral snakes.

Prof. Jacques Gauthier, a senior author of the study, said that primate brains, which also include the brain of humans, are hardwired for attending to the serpents; according to Prof. Gauthier, there are some valid reasons behind this. He added that our natural, adaptive attention to these reptiles turns the mystery surrounding the evolutionary origin of snakes even more intriguing.