A mid-Cretaceous embryonic-to-neonate snake in amber from Myanmar

Journal: Science Advances

Published: 2018-07-01

DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat5042

Affiliations: 11

Authors: 12

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Research Highlight

Ancient baby snake trapped in amber tomb

© Gary Kemp Photography/Getty

© Gary Kemp Photography/Getty

The first baby snake fossil ever found shows that early serpents settled into more diverse habitats than previously thought.

Snake skeletons found in marine and river sediments reveal that snakes had already slithered around the globe by 100 million years ago. But the fossil record remains sparse due to the fragility of snake bones.

Now, a team that included researchers from Flinders University analysed a small but perfectly preserved headless skeleton of an unlucky snake that had become trapped in tree sap. The amber tomb was discovered at a market in Myanmar in 2016. 

The team used powerful X-rays to analyse the tiny back bones and found that their size and shape closely matched those of newborn Asian pipe snakes, suggesting that snake skeletons have changed little in 100 million years.

This rare find is the first evidence that early snakes thrived in forests, and provides detailed data for studying snake diversity in the Cretaceous period.

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  1. Science Advances 4, eaat5042 (2018). doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aat5042
Institutions Share
Institute of Zoology (IOZ), CAS, China 0.21
University of Alberta (U of A), Canada 0.17
Beijing Museum of Natural History, China 0.13
Midwestern University (MWU), United States of America (USA) 0.08
South Australian Museum, Australia 0.08
Flinders University, Australia 0.08
Beijing Forestry University (BFU), China 0.08
State Key Laboratory of Biogeology and Environmental Geology, CUG, China 0.04
China University of Geosciences, Beijing (CUGB), China 0.04
Royal Saskatchewan Museum (RSM), Canada 0.04
University of Regina, Canada 0.04