Ever baby snake fossil discovered beautifully encased in amber

Mindy Sparks
July 21, 2018

Scientists have discovered the first-ever fossilised snake embryo, preserved in a pebble-sized chunk of amber from 105 million years ago.

According to Newsweek, the snake fossil and the bug remains found alongside it were extensively studied through multiple analysis methods, including CT scans, X-rays, microscopes and even particle accelerator technology.

The researchers have named the new species Xiaophis myanmarensis, and believe that it's related to some modern snakes in South East Asia. It is the first piece of concrete evidence which proves that snakes lived in forests since the first stages of their evolution. According to their estimates, this snake occurs from the late Cretaceous and lasted about 186 million years.

"We also describe a second amber specimen containing a large fragment of integument, possibly a piece of shed skin, considered here to be a snake and from a much larger animal", the study explained. The head was missing, but the study authors were nonetheless able to identify it as a new species, naming it Xiaophis myanmarensis, Caldwell told Live Science. "And having this one be almost a hundred million (years) old is really quite awesome", said coauthor Michael Caldwell, a fossil reptile expert at the University of Alberta, according to National Geographic. "So the total length of the snake might be about 9.5cm", said Associate Professor Xing Lida of China University of Geosciences.

"To actually have something as fragile as a baby that's only a few millimeters long preserved for a 100 million years, the amount of new scientific information that we can get from it is quite extraordinary", Tiago R. Simones with the U of A's biological sciences department said. "No one has ever seen fossils of such small snakes".

The scientists believe that the baby snake hatched from its egg some 100 million years ago and slithered into a patch of amber, remaining forever trapped inside the sticky resin. Furthermore, while lizard fossils are abundant in the northern continents that once made up the supercontinent of Laurasia, snake fossils are very rare. "In this particular specimen, part of what makes it more snake-like is the diamond shape of the scales".

Amber has preserved many fascinating creatures over the years.

"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", Caldwell said to University of Alberta online magazine Folio.

"It indicates how little we know about ecological diversity in that point in time of snakes". At about the same time the fossils came into its modern form.

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