A team of scientists has conducted a recent study which showed that the first snakes that ever crawled on Earth lived about 128 million years ago, were nocturnal creatures and had small back legs with ankles and tiny toes.
According to their paper, the world’s first snake most likely lived 128 million years ago in the warm forests of the supercontinent called Laurasia. This prehistoric continent was made of Asia, Europe and North America.
The new study is looking to clarify numerous scientific debates over the origins of the first snakes.
Allison Hsiang, a scientist at Yale University and one of the researchers involved in the study, explained that although the origins of the snake have been the subject of many debates for a long time, this study is actually the first to test some of the theories using state-of-the-art technologies.
Hsiang added that they analyzed the genes, fossils and the anatomy of more than 73 species of snakes and lizards, both living and long extinct.
By doing all this, the team of scientists managed to reconstruct what the world’s first snake might have looked like.
Hsiang and her team of researchers succeeded to identify similarities and differences between the species of snakes and used it to create a comprehensive family tree of snakes.
The team identified some of the most important features of snakes throughout time.
According to the new study, snakes have their origins on land and not on water, as some scientists previously thought.
Also, the appearance of snakes in the Early Cretaceous actually coincided with the emergence of many species of ancient birds and mammals
The experts believe that the first snakes fed on almost anything, but unlike some species of modern snakes that can swallow whole very large prey, the prehistoric snakes ate smaller prey.
The researchers believe the reason for this was that the first snakes did not have the ability to kill their prey using constriction, like the modern boa constrictors.
The first snakes were nocturnal creatures for millions of years and researchers assume that they evolved into diurnal creatures approximately 50 million years ago.
That was about the time Colubroidea, which is the family of snakes that currently makes up for more than 85% of the living snake species.
In time, the snakes lost their hind legs because it made it hard for them to slither on the ground.
The researchers published their recent findings in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.
Image Source: npr