Archaeologists have discovered the remains of the world's oldest snakes

World's First Known Ancient Baby Snake Fossil Discovered Preserved in Amber

Science Advances

"And having this one be almost a hundred million old is really quite wonderful", Dr. Caldwell told National Geographic.

A baby snake has been discovered encased in a piece of Burmese amber that dates back to around 100 million years ago, unveiling a new species, a group of scientists from China, Australia, US, and Canada announced on Wednesday.

One key finding is the presence of V-shaped spurs of bone on the bottom of the tail vertebrae, which may have been used to stabilize snakes when they first became legless.

"Although found in the northern hemisphere, it strongly resembles South American snakes that lived at the time".

The researchers determined the fossilized snake was either an embryo or a newborn based on the development of its spinal cord.

"I can't say if it was still in the egg, and it broke and the little guy was caught up in a blob of amber, or if it had just hatched".

The experts also examined a second piece of amber containing what appears to be a fragment of skin from an adult snake.

That skin hasn't been confirmed by the researchers as coming from a snake, but when compared to modern specimens, the scale-like markings look pretty close to that of a snake.

World's First Known Ancient Baby Snake Fossil Discovered Preserved in Amber
Source Ming Bai Chinese Academy of Sciences via University of Alberta

Either way, considering all these wonderful finds, we're sure this won't be the last time we're hearing about incredible discoveries encased in amber from Myanmar.

"The scales are organized as one would expect in a snake or a lizard, in diagonal rows".

"The beauty of this thing is that you can actually see it's a brand-new baby snake", Caldwell said.

While many Cretaceous fossils have turned up at Myanmar over the years - including that of the "paragliding" beetle named after Jason and the Argonauts from Greek mythology, as reported by the Inquisitr last month - it was only recently that archeologists began uncovering vertebrate fossils preserved in amber, study co-author Michael Caldwell told Live Science.

X-ray imaging helped researchers analyze the fossil. "It is clear that this little snake was living in a forested environment with numerous insects and plants, as these are preserved in the clast", explained Caldwell.

"There are a number of other well-preserved fossil snakes around the same age, but they are from marine deposits around the Mediterranean and are thought to represent aquatic species". "In this particular specimen, part of what makes it more snake-like is the diamond shape of the scales".

The skeleton of the snake, which is under five centimeters in length, is relatively complete, aside from the skull. They settled on Xiaophis myanmarensis, where "Xiao" is the Chinese word for "dawn", "ophis" the Greek word for "snake", and "myanmarensis" for the place of its discovery, Myanmar.

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