Archaeologists rarely findan exceptional fossil that allows you to look at the evolution of a certain group of organisms, but this time the experts were incredibly lucky. According to livescience.com, the researchers managed to find the perfectly preserved skull of an ancient snake of the Najash rionegrina species, which had hind limbs. Such a rare discovery of new fossils can help answer ancient questions about the origin of snakes, which for some unknown reason lost their ability to walk during evolution.
What did the biblical serpent look like?
According to Science Advances, Najashrionegrina is named after the biblical snake Nahash, which had legs. The fossils of an ancient reptile species found in the province of Rio Negro in Argentina determined an age of about 95 million years. For the first time, fossils were identified by a fragmented skull and partial skeleton of the body, which managed to maintain strong hind limbs. This fossil aroused great interest among the media, since previously found fossils of sea snakes significantly changed the evolutionary pattern of these representatives of the reptile detachment.
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Unfortunately, due to fragmented storagethe skulls, the first descriptions of Nadzhasha were not entirely accurate, so scientists could only guess how the head might have looked like in these ancient animals.
How did snakes appear?
Thanks to the study of general anatomyreptiles, experts have long established that snakes are descended from lizards, whose skull is the key to their successful adaptation to a highly specialized way of feeding. The origin of snakes has many hypotheses, some of which are still not confirmed by official science. One of the main theories is that snakes came from a blind, digging ancestor of the scolecophidian lizard. They belong to the group of small, worm-like lizards that can dig the ground.
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Using data obtained after analysisThe fossil remains of the snake Najash, the researchers were able to refute the previous theory about the origin of this species of snakes from scolecophidians. The skulls of the ancient snake species, as it turned out, had nothing to do with the skulls of the Scolecophidian lizards, since Najash had large mouths with sharp teeth, as well as somewhat mobile skulls, which are typical of most representatives of modern snakes. At the same time, snakes of antiquity still have some similar features of the bone skull with typical representatives of lizards. During evolution, the Najash snakes developed in the direction of increasing the mobility of the skull, which was necessary to absorb a fairly large prey, which is also a typical feature of modern snakes.
Scientists discover new fossilsreceived very controversial information about some details of the bones of ancient reptiles. For example, for a long time, the rod-shaped bone located behind the eye of modern snakes was considered to be the equivalent of the postorbital bone in their ancestors. New knowledge about the snake of the Najash species convincingly demonstrates that the bone below the orbit of the eye has the same shape, position and connections as the more modern lizards.
Thus, paleontologists were able todisprove the hypothesis of the evolution of snakes from tiny, blind and worm-shaped ancestors. None of the fossils of ancient snakes found so far have any resemblance to the Skolekofidian lizards, in their evolutionary level of development they become closer to modern Komodo lizards.