Four-legged specimen suggests serpents evolved first on land
Julius T. Cstonyi
The worldwide hunt for a fossil link between snakes and lizards has succeeded — in a museum.
The fossil, of a four-legged snake, hints that the ancestors of modern-day snakes may have evolved on land rather than at sea, researchers report in the July 24 Science. It’s the first four-legged snake fossil ever discovered, bridging the gap between snakes and lizards, says paleontologist Michael Lee of the South Australian Museum and the University of Adelaide.
“It’s a tremendously important fossil, because it’s the classic missing link,” he says. “It’s got a snakelike body but four little lizardlike legs.”
Not everyone is convinced.
“Finding the first example of a four-legged snake would be very exciting,” says Michael Caldwell, a paleontologist at the University of Alberta in Canada. “But I just don’t think this is a snake.”