Snakes have allegedly been on this planet for much longer than scientists had previously thought – 70 million years before the past estimated time. The discovery of the fossils of four ancient snakes has provided more insight as to the age of the oldest snake the Earth has seen.
Calculating the time as to when each species came to be on Earth is a challenging task. Usually, scientists make use of the fossils accessible to them to estimate the age of creatures. While we can have a broad idea of the era from which the species came from, we also have limitations, and sometimes, new discoveries add up to the bulk of existing information and render past calculations obsolete.
A new study, published in journal Nature Communications, has thus shown that snakes might have been living on Earth for 70 millions earlier than scientists had initially thought. The analysis of four ancient snakes revealed that the remains of the ancient snakes are between 140 and 167 million years old. It is to be noted that the earlier discoveries never dealt with fossils of snakes between 140 and 100 millions years old.
The oldest known snake from the work of the researchers behind the new study was the Eophis underwoodi, which was a small individual. Its age at the time of death is still unclear. The largest one was the Portugalophis lignites, and made one meter in length.
Ancient snakes like Portugalophis, Parviraptor and Eophis would inhabit coastal regions of west Europe.
The fourth ancient snake was spotted in Western Colorado – well, its fossil was. It is the Diablophis gilmorei.
From the results, it seems that snakes evolved into longer individuals around 167 to 100 million years ago.
The four species of old snakes were also found to be non-venomous.
Researchers can now use this recent data to develop further an understanding of the evolution of snakes. Commenting on this aspect of the matter, the lead author, Michael Caldwell, said that the results indicated that snake evolution is more complex than scientists have deemed so far. The authors are thus of the opinion that the origin and evolution of snakes should be reevaluated in the light of the new evidence.