First fossilized snake embryo ever discovered rewrites history of ancient snakes

Древнейший детеныш змеи найден в ископаемом янтаре

July 18, 2018 - A 99-million-year-old baby snake fossil was found preserved in amber-the first of its kind.

That skin hasn't been confirmed by the researchers as coming from a snake, but when compared to modern specimens, the scale-like markings look pretty close to that of a snake.

"This snake is linked to ancient snakes from Argentina, Africa, India and Australia", explained the study's lead author paleontologist University of Alberta Michael Caldwell in his institution's online magazine Folio.

According to scientists, this species of snakes existed tens of millions of years.

The baby snake specimen is the first such fossil of that developmental age known to science.

The early Late Cretaceous hatchling, from Myanmar's northern Kachin province, was donated to researchers along with a second piece of amber that preserves part of what appears to be the shed skin of a much larger snake, with its pigmentation pattern intact.

The skeleton of the snake, which is under five centimeters in length, is relatively complete, aside from the skull.

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The amber fragment in which the specimen was found also provides clues about its environment.

The skeletal remains of a prehistoric snake are seen in an amber found in Myanmar.

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.

Study co-author Dr. Lida Xing is a paleontologist from the China University of Geosciences in Beijing. Caldwell said the snake was discovered in a quarry that was only opened a couple of years ago. At almost 100 million years old, the baby snake's remains provide researchers with significant new information about the animals' development and global distribution.

"The beauty of this thing is that you can actually see it's a brand-new baby snake", Caldwell said. The fact that snakes have remained mostly the same for so long means that they must be doing something very right and discovering how snakes took to different environments allows scientists to better explain why they have defied extinction again and again.

Both are extremely similar to snake species living today, a testament to how well-adapted little these little, slithering predators are to their ecological niche. Previously snake fossils have only been found in desserts. "When it caught the baby snake, it caught the forest floor with the bugs, plants and bug poop - so that it is clear the snake was living in a forest".

Most of the fossilized snakes found previously show they lived in water.

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