For some time now, scientists from all over the world struggled to understand a peculiar phenomenon in the snake’s evolutionary process. Recently, they become closer to finding their long sought answer. Scientist found out why snakes are limbless and how they’ve managed to adapt to a non-aquatic environment.
The recent discoveries were prompted by an unusual fossil, which has been extensively analyzed by researchers from the University of Edinburgh. The team actually managed to grab hold of a 90 million-years snake head.
The ancient snake skull reveled some very interesting facts about the modern snake’s ancestors. Up to known, the scientists believed that the reptile lost its limbs in order to promote an aquatic predatorial behavior. Recent findings would indicate that the initial hypothesis was partially wrong. Snakes have indeed lost their limbs in order to integrate into a different environment, but a different one.
In order to confirm their findings, the team of researchers, headed by Doctor Hongyu Yi, performed a couple of CT scans on reptiles. Then, by cross-referencing the CT scans with the reconstructed 3D model of the snake, they were able to get a couple of bearings regarding the evolutionary gap.
Dinilysia patagonica was the snake whose fossils the researchers found at a dig site. Sadly, most of the bone fragments recovered from the bygone snake were damaged. But they found out that a couple of inner ear formation are still intact. Through the use of 3D imaging, the team was able to digitally reconstruct the entire skull of the snake.
What they found out was truly amazing. According to the scans, the inner ear formations are consistent with burrower, a land predator and not an aquatic one. Traditionally, the snake’s inner ear plays a major role in balance and movement. But it would seem that the fragments found in the fossil played another role as well. The team theorized that the additional formation found in Dinilysia patagonica’s inner ear, was an early warning system, designed to help the reptile fend of its predators.
By analyzing the snake’s earthly remains, scientists found out why snakes are limbless. The additional formation found in Dinilysia patagonica’s inner ear was the missing link they needed to find in order to put a cap on this evolutionary mystery. Also, according to their determinations, this was the largest burrowing snake ever known to man.
The scientists working for the School of GeoSciences must conduct additional research in order to verify their findings.