At 99 million years old, this baby snake fossil is the first of its kind to be discovered

at million years old this baby snake fossil is the first of its kind to be discovered

Palaeontologists have found a tiny fossilized baby snake, the first of its kind to be discovered.

The snake embryo, sitting within a chunk of amber from Myanmar, was preserved in the early Late Cretaceous period approximately 99 million years ago, according to research published in Science Advances on Wednesday.

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It’s a new species that’s been named Xiaophis myanmarensis by the 11 authors, the first Mesozoic snake to be found in a forested environment, which the study’s authors believe indicates a greater ecological diversity in early snakes than previously thought.

(left) the snake skeleton within the amber. (middle) a  dorsal view of skeleton, synchrotron x-ray micro–computed tomography image. (right) a ventral view of the skeleton.

Image: science advances

The unique little snake fossil, according to the report, is an articulated post-cranial skeleton (everything but the skull) and sits at just 47.5 millimeters long. 

A look at the snake’s vertebrae indicates similarities to those of fossil snakes from Gondwana, the ancient supercontinent that broke up about 180 million years ago. National Geographic placed the snake as possibly related to a group of modern snakes found in Southeast Asia.

Individual vertebrae are extremely small, comparable in size and morphology to those of a neonate Asian pipe snake.

Image: science advances

A second specimen found in Myanmar by the same team includes a preserved fragment of shed skin. 

That skin hasn’t been confirmed by the researchers as coming from a snake, but when compared to modern specimens, the scale-like markings look pretty close to that of a snake.

If it is indeed snakeskin, National Geographic reports, it would be the first ever discovered in amber.

Photographs of probable snake shed skin.

Image: Science Advances

The tiny snake fossil is incredibly well-preserved for being approximately 99 million years old. 

Every fossil unearthed like this brings us a little closer to understanding what creatures slithered across the Earth and where before smartphones and Snapchat ever got a look-in.

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