A new study published in Science Advances on Thursday has shed light on the life of ancient legged snakes.
The Biblical story of the forbidden fruit – which discusses how the snake persuaded Eve to taste it, and howshe and Adam, who also ate from it, were subsequently banned from the Garden of Eden by God – is probably one of the most well-known narratives in the history of humankind.
As described in Genesis, the snake also received divine punishment. “You will crawl on your belly and eat dirt all the days of your life,” God tells the serpent, implying that before the event, the animal had legs, similar to many others.
Now, a new study published in Science Advances on Thursday has shed light on the life of snakes’ legged ancestors.
Several fossils of an extinct snake group named “Najash” dating back to 100 million years ago were recently uncovered in Patagonia, Argentina.
The group is named after the word nachash that both in biblical and modern Hebrew indicate the snake.
As reported by the New York Times, the fossils, which include , seem to suggest that snakes might have lost their front legs millions of years earlier than their hind legs.
“That skull is now the most complete Mesozoic snake skull known and preserves key data on ancient snake anatomy,” research leader Fernando Garberoglio told The New York Times.
The notion that snakes started off as four-legged animals has been accepted by scientists for several years, although, according to the Times, no fossils have been found to corroborate the theory.
Prior to the Patagonia extraordinary discovery, researchers thought that a two-legged phase was at most transitional between four legs and a limbless body. Now it appears that the transition might have lasted dozens of millions of years.
“‘Snakeness’ is really old, and that’s probably why we don’t have any living representatives of four-legged snakes like we do all of the other lizards,” Michael Caldwell, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Alberta and a co-author of the study, explained to the Times.
“Snakes probably were one of the first lizard groups to start experimenting with limblessness, but what’s really intriguing is that they were also very clearly showing the characteristics of their skulls, which are their specialization,” he added.