A new scientific experiment has revealed that prehistoric snakes lived on land, not on water as humanity thought they did decades ago. The experiment was carried out by a group of researchers at the Yale University in an attempt to trace the main evolutionary patterns of the much-feared reptiles.
Biologists at the Yale University have managed to contradict traditions and beliefs that accounted as real for the past centuries. They have recently published a new study in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology showing that prehistoric snakes lived on land, not in water as some might wrongfully be tempted to think.
Moreover, their studies show that the first snake species had limbs and feet which enabled them to cross the rigid surface of the land. These small limbs gradually disappeared within the past millennia, thus, allowing snakes to take the form that we nowadays know.
The experiment was carried out by comparing 73 species of snakes currently living on Earth’s surface with previous historic fossils that were found in specific regions of our planet. The comparison enabled scientists to pinpoint several evolutionary patterns that kept repeating as the study unfolded.
Using computer-based technology, experts at the Yale University have reconstructed the original shape of the prehistoric snake. They now believe the first species of snakes had multiple pairs of feet. These have gradually disappeared due to Earth’s climate changes leaving snakes with fewer and fewer limbs on their slick bodies. The last pairs of limbs appear to have been ditched by snakes several centuries ago, when the reptiles became what they know them to be today.
The study has also enabled biologists to create the most elaborate snake “family tree ever yet”. The database contains information related to all lizard and snake species and will, therefore, be preserved to serve for further experiments.
The recent findings have impressed scientists, as well, as they did not expect their past beliefs to be completely shattered. “We think we’ve got a strongly supported idea, and based on the mathematical reconstruction it is what is most likely to be true,” Daniel J. Field, one of the authors of the experiment stated.
The study did not deal with the factors that might have contributed to the modification of the species. Researchers believe these changes were mainly determined by the environment changes that the Earth has undergone.
Professors at the University of Yale plan to look deeper into this problem as they think new discoveries about humans’ perception of snakes could be made. More specifically, scientists want to understand what made humans fear snakes so much and when was the exact moment when this happened.
Image Source: Wired