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Snake Ancestors Had Hind Legs and Cheek Bones, Suggests Study of a New Fossil

This is in sharp contrast to theories that suggest that limbs of snakes were more like appendages that were merely a transient phase before they quickly adapted to their current limbless form.

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Updated:November 21, 2019, 2:41 PM IST
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Snake Ancestors Had Hind Legs and Cheek Bones, Suggests Study of a New Fossil
Image for Representation. Credits: Getty Images.

A new study published in the journal Science Advances based on well-preserved fossils of snakes and snake skulls now suggest that the reptilians had hind legs for a long time in its evolutionary path.

This is in sharp contrast to theories that suggest that limbs of snakes were more like appendages that were merely a transient phase before they quickly adapted to their current limbless form.

According to the study, cited by CNN, the study was based on Najash rionegrina, which was a type of early snake that had hind limbs.

Researchers unearthed eight skulls of the prehistoric snake, including one which was almost perfectly intact in the La Buitrera Palaeontological Area of northern Patagonia in Argentina.

Study authors say the Najash has primitive features more akin to those of lizards such as a cheekbone arch as well as snakelike features that included a lack of bony arch connecting the cheekbone to the skull. The Najash also possessed something intermediate between the two reptilian species, like a part of a jaw joint.

Speaking about the same, lead author Fernando Garberoglio issued a statement saying that their findings support the idea that the ancestors of the modern snake were big-bodied, and big-mouthed animals unlike the previously thought of like small burrowing creatures.

He said that the study further revealed that the early snakes retained their hind limbs for an extended period of time before evolving into the modern limbless versions.

In fact, the snake also lacked a series of bony crests that is considered to be an inherent part of the snake.

Study authors revealed that the Najash lived with back legs in a successful manner for 70 million years, hinting that the hind limbs were actually useful and not just a transitional phase.

Using light microscopy and tomography scanning, researchers created the Najash in 3D, which provided them a closer look at the nerves and blood vessels within the snake skeleton.

Michael Caldwell, study co-author added, ""This research revolutionizes our understanding of the jugal bone in snake and non-snake lizards." He further went on to say that after 160 years of misinformation, the paper corrects the snake's skeleton on, "empirical evidence," the report added.

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