Snakes with Legs?
by Brian Thomas, M.S. *
As weird as it may sound, some snakes had legs. Fossils reveal little legs on ancient snakes that have apparently been extinct for some time. Yet, those had only hind legs. Now, in the journal Science researchers describe a new fossil with four limbs. They suggest that this new fossil illustrates how legged snakes evolved from legged lizards. Is this accurate?
Researchers have known that all legged snakes looked like snakes. They were long and tubular with many vertebrae. Legged snake fossils also have the characteristic snake skull. For example, lizard skulls have a raised eyebrow ridge, but the top of a snake's skull is flat.
This new fossil named Tetrapodophis found in a private collection is no exception to the trend. The Science study authors wrote, "The snake-like spine and reduced limbs of Tetrapodophis suggest that the animal engaged in characteristic serpentine locomotion, with the limbs playing little or no role in locomotion."1 Perhaps they didn't play a role in locomotion, but maybe they played a role in mating—like the hind spurs of modern pythons.
- Martill, D. M., H. Tischlinger, and N. R. Longrich. 2015. A four-legged snake from the Early Cretaceous of Gondwana. Science. 349 (6246): 416-419.
- Or possibly it was not a snake. Some paleontologists wonder if it was an extinct amphibian. See Perkins, S. Four-legged snake fossil stuns scientists—and ignites controversy. Science News. Posted on news.sciencemag.org July 23, 2015, accessed August 4, 2015.
Image credit: Copyright © 2015. D. Martill. Adapted for use in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holders.
*Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on August 10, 2015.