Scientists have discovered the oldest known baby snake fossil, a find that will reveal more information about the creatures that lived in ancient Earth.
The fossil in amber was recovered in Myanmar, where various similar fossils have been retrieved. What does the baby snake fossil say about the past, and why is it so important?
Baby Snake Preserved In Amber
The remains of a 100-million-year-old baby snake have been found preserved inside a piece of amber in Myanmar. The new species, which has been named Xiaophis myanmarensis, lived during the mid-Cretaceous period, which was before the time of the Tyrannosaurus rex.
The Xiaophis myanmarensis preserved in amber is the oldest known fossil of a baby snake and the first from its time that was discovered in a forested environment. It is just 5 centimeters long, but it was missing its skull. It remains unclear how the baby snake lost its head.
The baby snake fossil was found alongside the skin of a larger snake from a different species. The species from which it came from remains unknown, though, as the discarded skin was not enough to identify it.
The Importance Of The Baby Snake Fossil In Amber
Scientists used microscopes and X-rays to analyze the fossil and compared its bone structure to a database of other snake fossils to find out where it fits in the animal's evolution.
The fossil revealed that snakes may have moved to forests from coastal regions earlier than previously thought. This means that snakes may have already been a part of more prehistoric ecosystems.
It was also found that the mechanism of snakes for the development of spinal bones has not changed much since millions of years ago. The age of the snake in the fossil also makes it very important in understanding how ancient snake embryos matured.
Fossils Found In Amber In Myanmar
The two ancient snake fossils were discovered at the Angbamo site in the Kachin province of Myanmar. They were not the first fossils in amber found at the site, though. Previous discoveries of fossils in amber from Myanmar include prehistoric frogs, ticks, and birds.
Paleontologists who are searching for more amber fossils in Myanmar, however, are facing hurdles due to a conflict between the country's army and Kachin rebels. As the fight between them intensifies, the opportunities for paleontologists to enter the region have dwindled. It does not help that the pieces of amber with fossils inside may be sold for huge profits.