A four-legged fossil of snake provides insights into snake evolution
The discovery of a four-legged fossil snake has provided a new direction to the long-standing argument of researchers over the evolution of snakes. The fossil is named Tetrapodophis amplectus, which loosely translates as ‘four-legged hugging snake,’ and is being considered as a missing link between snakes and lizards. The 120-or-so-million-year-old fossil was discovered in Crato Formation in northeastern Brazil several decades ago, but caught attention of the palaeontologists only a few years ago. They believe the creature’s legs did not serve the purpose of locomotion, but were rather used for grasping prey or to hold on to mating partners. Martin Cohn, an evolutionary developmental biologist at the University of Florida, Gainesville, says that the common assumption that snake limbs were shed due to elongation of their trunk would need to change as the discovery of Tetrapodophis amplectus indicates that limbs of snakes must have been repurposed by evolution instead of simply dwindling away as its body became longer.
Read more in Nature.