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'Like magic:' Delicate fossil of oldest baby snake found in amber

'Like magic:' Delicate fossil of oldest baby snake found in amber

Three years ago, the Inquisitr reported on the discovery of the oldest-ever snake fossils, dated to between 140 and 167 million years ago and retrieved from a Late Cretaceous site in India.

"No one has ever seen a fossilized baby snake of any kind whatsoever".

"Whether or not these early snakes were giving live birth, which is common in modern snakes, or whether they were hatching from eggs, is unclear", said Caldwell to National Geographic.

The two pieces of amber also contained insects, remains of plants and invertebrates, indicating the snakes were living in a humid and warm tropical rain forest with a freshwater habitat.

In another piece of amber, found in Myanmar, have found pieces of snake skin with light and dark stripes.

Image copyright Ming BAI, Chinese Academy of Sciences Image caption The snake is similar in size to living species, such as the Asian Pipe Snake What do we know about where it lived? "Most lizards don't show that same kind of diamond shape and pattern of overlap in the scales". This new fossil brings much-needed information to Caldwell's team who has been tracking the migration of ancient Gondwanans, that started over 180 million years ago and saw the species navigate from Australia to Myanmar.

When the specimen was first found, the creature inside was thought to be a centipede or a millipede because the head was missing. As with many interesting pieces of amber, this newest addition was discovered in Myanmar and dates back to the mid-Cretaceous period. A technique called synchrotron x-ray micro-computed tomography allowed the researchers to get a close look at the tiny specimens inside the amber without having to break them apart. This quarry, Caldwell said, has a high concentration of vertebrates.

At less than two inches long, the snake is very tiny and hard to see clearly with the naked eye, but the x-ray scans allowed the team to carefully study the shape and position of its bones, including a remarkable 97 vertebrae or backbones.

"Xiaophis myanmarensis was part of the fauna that rode on this drifting landmass, which like a huge passenger ship transported all sorts of Gondwanan plants and animals to Asia", said Professor Michael Lee, also from Flinders University and the South Australian Museum. The age of the snake in the fossil also makes it very important in understanding how ancient snake embryos matured.

However, they can't tell if the snake is the same species as the baby, or if it's something different all together. CT scans were used to compare the prehistoric snake to its modern counterparts, according to Folio.

The skeleton of the snake, which is under five centimeters in length, is relatively complete, aside from the skull. However, finding one snake in Burmese amber suggests that there are probably more waiting to be discovered and studied, he adds.

The skeletal remains from the Xiaophis myanmarensis snake hatchling trapped in amber.

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