Snakes evolved from burrowing ancestor, new data suggest | Science News

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Snakes evolved from burrowing ancestor, new data suggest

Serpents did not descend from marine reptiles

2:00pm, November 27, 2015
Ptyas mucosa fossil

SEE-THROUGH SKULL  X-ray scans of the skulls of lizards and snakes, including Ptyas mucosa, the oriental rat snake, reveal clues that today’s snakes descended from burrowers.

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The mother of all snakes got its start underground.

X-ray images of snake and lizard skulls suggest that modern snakes’ ancestors burrowed rather than swam, scientists report November 27 in Science Advances.

The study is the latest to suggest that snakes evolved from land lizards that lost their limbs while adapting to a slithery, subterranean lifestyle (SN: 8/22/15, p. 10). Another theory posits that today’s snakes descended from marine reptiles — with a svelte body and lack of legs serving as adaptations to move through a watery home.

Paleontologists Hongyu Yi of the University of Edinburgh and Mark Norell of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City used X-ray scans to build 3-D virtual models of the inner ears of 44

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