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Reptiles That Survived Dinosaur-killing Asteroid are Forefathers of Modern-day Snakes

Some snakes hid underground and could cling to life without the availability of food for several years. (Representational image: News18)

Some snakes hid underground and could cling to life without the availability of food for several years. (Representational image: News18)

The study, published in Nature Communications, found evidence that leads to the genesis of all modern species of snakes to the handful of them who survived the asteroid collision 66 million years ago.

Snakes, the magnificent yet scary legless creatures, are spread across the globe with more than 3,000 species. But there are just a few ultra-resilient species that deserve all the credits for the existence of such a massive number during modern times. A new study at the University of Bath suggests that the enormous extra-terrestrial rock that hit the Earth wiping out most of flora and fauna, including dinosaurs, is the reason for the snakes’ success in survival for almost 66 million years and counting.

As the massive asteroid hit the Earth, it induced a myriad other catastrophes such as monumental floods, continuous wildfires, and devastating tsunamis. Moreover, the Earth saw few dark decades as the ash clouds did not let any sunlight enter the planet's atmosphere.

In such a hostile environment, a few species -such as frogs, birds, and fish -managed to survive and keep the continuum of life dynamic. In these species were snakes that hid underground and could cling to life without the availability of food for several years.

"It's remarkable, because not only are they surviving an extinction that wipes out so many other animals, but within a few million years they are innovating, using their habitats in new ways,"Dr. Catherine Klein, lead author of the study, told in a press release.

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The study, published in Nature Communications, found evidence that leads to the genesis of all modern species of snakes to the handful of them who survived the asteroid collision 66 million years ago. It is noted in previous research that major changes in the paradigm of evolution are seen right after the mass extinction, which has only happened a few times in the planet’s 4.5-billion-year-old history.

Post the extinction of almost 76% of all species, snakes survived and are now one of the most prevalent reptiles on Earth as they adapt to a variety of ecosystems — ranging from dry deserts to deep blue seas. They are found in every continent on Earth, except Antarctica.

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first published:September 15, 2021, 19:08 IST