A new fossil hints at possible snake ancestors that had hind legs and cheekbones. An emerging theory suggests that this snake fossil may have been a form of transient stage and that the hind legs may have merely been appendages.
According to this theory, the hind legs which were supposedly simply appendages were quickly adapted out leaving their current limbless form. The study is based on well-preserved fossils of snakes and snake skulls and is suggestive of the fact that snake ancestors may have had hind legs at some point. The specific specimen that the study is based on is called Najash rionegrina, which is thought to be a type of early snake that had hind limbs.
Eighty skulls of this prehistoric snake were found in La Buitrera Palaeontological Area of northern Patagonia in Argentina. Studies conducted on the Najash show that they had features more akin to lizards.
The Najash also possessed a jaw point. The lead authors of the study, Fernando Garberoglio released a statement which said that they believed that the ancestors of the modern snake were big-bodied and big-mouthed animals. He further added that the study shows that early snakes, in reality, had retained their hind limbs for a long period of time.
The study reveals that the Najash lived with hind legs for 70 million years and that they were actually useful and not useless appendages. Michael Caldwell who co-authored the study stated that the research he and his team did revolutionizes the understanding of the jugal bone in a snake.
Modern snakes are elongated, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes. Snakes are found on every continent in the world except Antarctica and some isolated island nations like Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, the Hawaiian archipelago, and the islands of New Zealand, and many small islands of the Atlantic and central Pacific oceans.