Updated September 25th, 2021 at 00:08 IST

Modern day snakes evolved from ancestors who survived dinosaur-killing asteroids: Study

The study revealed that ancestral snakes survived the deadly impact because of their ability to hide underground and spend long periods of time without food.

Harsh Vardhan

Snakes are among the animals that are always perceived in a bad light owing to their aggressive behaviour. However, a new study that has claimed to have traced their origins might bring them in a completely different light. Published in Nature Communications, the study revealed that these reptiles evolved from their ancestors who were as old as the dinosaurs and survived the devastating asteroid impact 66 million years ago. 

How did the experts trace their evolution?

A report by SciTechDaily suggested that scientists from the University of Bath and collaborators from Bristol, Cambridge, and Germany assembled to reconstruct snake evolution by analysing fossils and the genetic differences between modern snakes. The observations which pinpointed the origin of modern-day snakes showed that all living snakes, from thousands of modern-day species, evolved from a handful of their ancestors that made it past the extraterrestrial impact. 

Calling it a form of ‘creative destruction, the authors of the study revealed that the reptiles were able to survive the deadly impact because of their ability to hide underground and spend long periods of time without food, said media sources. The experts further added that as the impact killed most of these reptiles’ competitors, including the dinosaurs, the survived species of snakes moved to new habitats and from one continent to another. 

Moreover, they revealed that as the snakes began exploiting new habitats and preys, they diversified into newer forms like the vipers, cobras, garter snakes, pythons, and boas. Thanks to evolution, there currently are nearly 4,000 known species of these snakes. Moreover, analysis of the fossils also revealed that the aftermath of the asteroid collision also caused a change in the shape of snake vertebrae. 

Citing the results of the study, media sources reported that although the ancestral reptiles lived somewhere in the southern hemisphere, modern-day snakes first emerged in Asia only after the mass extinction of dinosaurs. The study reportedly found hints about the role of catastrophic environmental disruptions in causing evolution by analysing the patterns seen in the snakes. Moreover, the experts also claimed about finding evidence of a second diversification event, when the Earth developed ice caps at its poles, during the ice age, and the climate shifted from warm to ice cold.



Published September 25th, 2021 at 00:08 IST

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