Hello Snakehips! Fossil Proves That Reptile Wasn't Always a Slitherer
Byline: JULIE WHELDON
IT IS the best evidence yet that snakes have not always been the slinkiest creatures on the planet.
A 65-million-year- old fossil shows they once had a considerable pair of hips.
The discovery suggests the very earliest snakes were burrowing land animals, rather than marine dwellers that later crawled out of the sea.
Their legs, which gradually became unnecessary through lack of use, simply disappeared over countless generations.
The fossil, found in Patagonia in Argentina, is the only one ever unearthed with hip bones.
Zoologists Sebastian Apesteguia and Hussam Zaher have reported the discovery in the latest issue of the journal Nature.
The fossil's 'hips' - a skeletal component called the sacral region that links hind limbs to backbone - show the snake's legs would have been adapted to digging or crawling.
The fossil consists of an almost complete skeleton including 122 vertebrae, parts of the creature's braincase and a pelvic girdle.
The newly discovered species, thought to have been no more than three feet long, lived in the late cretaceous period more than 65million years ago.
In the years that followed, snakes lost their hips and then their legs as they gradually settled into their current range of aquatic and terrestrial environments. …