Cretaceous ‘Four-Limbed Snake’ Turns Out To Be Long-Bodied Lizard

Cretaceous ‘Four-Limbed Snake’ Turns Out To Be Long-Bodied Lizard

The foundation of snakes remains one amongst the most contentious evolutionary transitions in vertebrate evolution. The invention of snake fossils with effectively-shaped hind limbs supplied original insights into the phylogenetic and ecological foundation of snakes. In 2015, Tetrapodophis amplectus, a particular creature that lived 110 million years within the past (Early Cretaceous epoch) in what is now Brazil, was described as the major acknowledged snake with fore- and hind limbs. New be taught presentations that Tetrapodophis amplectus is as a replace a protracted-bodied dolichosaurid lizard.

In the shallows near shore, Tetrapodophis amplectus glides through a tangle of branches from the conifer Duartenia araripensis that have fallen into the water, sharing this habitat with a water bug in the family Belostomatidae and small fish (Dastilbe sp.). Image credit: Julius Csotonyi.

Within the shallows cease to shore, Tetrapodophis amplectus glides thru a tangle of branches from the conifer Duartenia araripensis that possess fallen into the water, sharing this habitat with a water bug within the family Belostomatidae and tiny fish (Dastilbe sp.). Image credit rating: Julius Csotonyi.

“It has long been understood that snakes are participants of a lineage of four-legged vertebrates that, as a results of evolutionary specializations, lost their limbs,” stated Professor Michael Caldwell, a paleontologist within the Division of Natural Sciences and the Division of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the College of Alberta.

“Somewhere within the fossil account of historical snakes is an ancestral create that also had four legs. It has thus long been predicted that a snake with four legs would be stumbled on as a fossil.”

Within the original explore, Professor Caldwell and colleagues published a different of mischaracterizations of the anatomy and morphology of Tetrapodophis amplectus — traits that originally regarded to be shared most closely with snakes, suggesting this might well well presumably also be the long-sought-after snake with four legs.

“There are many evolutionary questions that would be answered by discovering a four-legged snake fossil, nonetheless fully if it is miles the right deal,” Professor Caldwell stated.

“The major conclusion of our team is that Tetrapodophis amplectus is no longer if truth be told a snake and was misclassified.”

“Reasonably, all aspects of its anatomy are in retaining with the anatomy seen in a neighborhood of extinct marine lizards from the Cretaceous period acknowledged as dolichosaurs.”

Tetrapodophis amplectus. Image credit: Martill et al., doi: 10.1126/science.aaa9208.

Tetrapodophis amplectus. Image credit rating: Martill et al., doi: 10.1126/science.aaa9208.

The clues to this conclusion were hiding within the rock the fossil was extracted from.

“When the rock containing the specimen was smash up and it was stumbled on, the skeleton and cranium ended up on reverse sides of the slab, with a natural mildew preserving the form of every on the reverse aspect,” Professor Caldwell stated.

“The favorite explore fully described the cranium and uncared for the natural mildew, which preserved loads of aspects that make it obvious that Tetrapodophis amplectus didn’t possess the cranium of a snake — no longer even of a veteran one.”

Even supposing Tetrapodophis amplectus might well well honest no longer be the snake with four legs, it composed has noteworthy to educate paleontologists.

“One of many finest challenges of discovering out Tetrapodophis amplectus is that it is miles one amongst the smallest fossil squamates ever stumbled on,” stated Tiago Simões, a postdoctoral researcher within the Division of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology & Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College.

“It is linked to the smallest squamates alive right now time that moreover possess diminished limbs.”

The team’s paper was published this week within the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.


Michael W. Caldwell et al. Tetrapodophis amplectus is no longer a snake: 2nd look of the osteology, phylogeny and helpful morphology of an Early Cretaceous dolichosaurid lizard. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, published on-line November 17, 2021; doi: 10.1080/14772019.2021.1983044