Wednesday, 24 October, 2018

Myanmar amber reveals secrets of prehistoric snake

A fossilized baby snake discovered in a 105-million-year-old amber fragment shows the ancient species lived in a forest environment in what is now Myanmar First fossilized snake embryo ever discovered rewrites history of ancient snakes
Doris Mccormick | 22 July, 2018, 14:37

Individual vertebrae are extremely small, comparable in size and morphology to those of a neonate Asian pipe snake.

The fossilized baby snake's spinal cord was still turning into bone in the same way those of its descendants still do.

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

Light photographs of probable snake shed skin: (A) overall view of the complete specimen; scale bar - 5 mm; (B) close-up of the left portion of the specimen showing converging scale rows (center top); scale bar - 1 mm; (C) close-up of the right mid-region of the specimen; scale bar - 1 mm.

Myanmar is a pretty good place to find ancient critters stuck in amber.

The study also offered the first evidence that some Cretaceous-era snakes lived in forests. In 2016, he was contacted by a dealer offering what was believed to be the skin of a crocodile.

When the specimen was first found, the creature inside was thought to be a centipede or a millipede because the head was missing.

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The paleontologists were even two rare ancient amber fragment, one of which is preserved a fragment of snake skin and the other remains just velupillaya snakes of the Cretaceous period. This mine, as Caldwell stated, has a high centralization of vertebrates.

Caldwell and his global team, including collaborators from Australia, China and the United States, have tracked the migration of these ancient Gondwanan snakes beginning 180 million years ago when they were carried by tectonic movements of continents and parts of continents, from Australia and India, to Madagascar and Africa, and finally to Asia, in modern-day India and Myanmar. The study's team used CT scans to analyze the remains and compare them with the infants of modern snakes.

The tiny fossil also bears some features that are no longer present in living species, he says, such as V-shaped spurs of bone on the bottom of the tail vertebrae.

Michael Caldwell is a snake paleontologist at the University of Alberta who also co-authored the study.

Image copyright Lida XING, China University of Geosciences Beijing Image caption The chunk of amber that contains the baby snake What is so special about amber fossils?

"There are a number of other well-preserved fossil snakes around the same age, but they are from marine deposits around the Mediterranean and are thought to represent aquatic species".

"We need to learn that snakes that were so abundant in the southern hemisphere reached up to the northern hemisphere and this specimen helped us to answer part of that question", Simones said. However, finding one snake in Burmese amber suggests that there are probably more waiting to be discovered and studied, he adds. Scientists called him "the snake of Dawn of Myanmar" (Xiaophis Myanmarensis).

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