Researchers Find A 100-Million-Year-Old Baby Snake Preserved In Amber

Scientists have come across a discovery you don’t make every day.

Scientists from the Chinese Academy found the remains of a snake that was preserved in a piece of amber in a forest of what is now Myanmar, in Southeast Asia. It is an amazing find since it is the oldest known baby snake ever discovered.

The new species received the scientific name of Xiaophis myanmarensis and lived in the upper Cretaceous period.

The fossil, which was around 5 centimeters in length was missing its skull, which is why the team of scientists used microscopes and x-ray scanning to analyze the size, shape, and orientation of the bones.

Then, researchers compared the new fossil’s bone structure to an existing database of snake fossils to see where it might fit into the evolutionary record.

Skeletal remains from the Xiaophis myanmarensis
Skeletal remains from the Xiaophis myanmarensis snake hatchling are trapped in Burmese amber. MING BAICHINESE ACADEMY OF SCIENCES CAS

This revealed that snakes may have moved to forested environments from underwater and coastal regions earlier on than was previously thought and that the mechanism through which snakes develop their spinal bones has changed very little over millions of years, the researchers report today in Science Advances.

Its size is really small, and experts say the snake likely could have fit in an average human hand. The experts who participated in the discovery said the finding provides an idea of the evolution of snakes at a time when reptiles shared the planet with dinosaurs.

snake skeleton
Fig. 1 Overview of amber clast with synchrotron x-ray μCT image of articulated snake skeleton (DIP-S-0907). (A) Amber clast with the included skeletal material. (B) Dorsal view of the skeleton, synchrotron x-ray micro-computed tomography (μCT) image. (C) Ventral view of the skeleton, synchrotron x-ray μCT image. Scale bar, 10 mm. Image Credit

Through X-ray studies, scientists were able to determine important similarities with other Cretaceous species of the former continental block called Gondwana, according to a report published in the journal Science Advances.

Thanks to this discovery, researchers will be able to study how the snake offspring developed millions of years ago, particularly in terms of the formation of the joints that connect the spine and the closure of the tube that would become the spinal cord.

Amber deposits are well-known for their ability to preserve fossils in excellent condition for millions of years.

In this case, one piece of the glassy gold contained a shard of shed skin and the other some 97 vertebrae and ribs from the skeleton of a baby snake.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock

Like it? Share with your friends!