A new study by researchers at Yale University found that the ancestors of modern snakes likely had no forelimbs, but did have hind legs. This is not especially surprising since scientists have long believed that snakes evolved from ancient lizards, but researchers say the new discovery has resolved many age-old debates on the origins of snakes.

“We generated the first comprehensive reconstruction of what the ancestral snake was like,” Allison Hsiang, lead author of the study, said in a press release from Yale. “We infer that the most recent common ancestor of all snakes was a nocturnal, stealth-hunting predator targeting relatively large prey, and most likely would have lived in forested ecosystems in the Southern Hemisphere,”

That common ancestor lived more than 128 million years ago in the Early Cretaceous. Back then, early snakes had not yet developed the anatomy to constrict prey, but instead held onto its food with tiny, sharp teeth and swallowed them whole. According to the study, which was published in the latest edition of the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology, these snakes evolved on land, not water.

“Our analyses suggest that the most recent common ancestor of all living snakes would have already lost its forelimbs, but would still have had tiny hind limbs, with complete ankles and toes,” said co-author Daniel Field.

What purpose did these tiny limbs serve? The study suggests that the legs may just be evolutionary remnants as snakes developed smaller and smaller limbs to suit a burrowing lifestyle. You can see an artist’s representation of early snakes below:

Image from Tambako The Jaguar on the flickr Creative Commons

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13 thoughts on “Study: Ancient Snakes Had Ankles, Toes

  1. THIS: “The common ancestor of all snakes emerged over 100 million years ago on the supercontinent Gondwana, and it had legs”…..is entirely suppositional, and there were no witnesses. Funny how we are spoon fed the fairly tale of Evolution, which must constantly revise itself – yet most find it impossible to believe in God, or his word – which has countless historically evidenced events that bear out his legitimacy as our Creator. Pure Darwinism can no more explain with science, or any degree of intellectual honesty – the initiation of LIFE….than we as Christians can “explain” God’s ability to create all life.

    1. Fairly tale? I think not. Christians can magically explain everything away with just dousing “god” into it all. Sorry this article offends you. But the truth is, all living things have evolved. Accept the living things with narrow minds. You called it a fairly tale instead of fairy tale. You either made a typo or part you believes in evolution.

      1. No one explained anything away. You just like downing on Christians. It’s a big fad these days. I’ve seen your degrading comments several times. Christian troll.

        How does darwin explain the poor unfortunates that got stuck in time? Like the chimpanzee, why did they have to stay chimps and you got to be human? Why in a “million” years are they still what they are? Does the evolution stop because some of you very fortunates have attained your utopia?

      2. I have family members who are Christians. They speak their mind, I speak mine. You just like downing atheists because you have a chip on your shoulder. Just because you’ve seen my posts before doesn’t mean you know the whole story behind it. It’s called different species with slightly different DNA. Besides, why ask me? you know your god is the answer so, why bother. By the way, Our utopia is what we make it. You wouldn’t believe me anyway. You’re safe with your belief. So be it. It doesn’t mean I need to accept religion just like you don’t need to accept atheism.

      3. Exactly! DNA doesn’t change into something else. If the DNA is different the species is different. Plus I don’t believe the DNA is viable from fossils, is it?so, that means the so called links of proof are still theoretical speculation, and that is not science at all.

        The whole purpose of science is to have an open mind. To find out if we are wrong. Not right. Fighting to prove our pompous asses, not science. The belief in God, doesn’t exclude science. In fact the majority of scientists do believe in God.

        The chip is on your shoulder. I didn’t insult, you did. I asked a question about the science, not religion. In fact I never even claimed to be Christian. Why is it Christians? Jews believe in God, and so do Muslims. The same God, they only differ on the details. Why don’t you attack, let’s say, Buddhism or Hinduism? Their deity is a different one, but still their “big guy in the sky”. One thing I’ve observed about atheists, that they are as “religious” about what they believe, as much as any bible beater I’ve ever known. Extremism is a human characteristic not a “religious” one.

        I didn’t down atheists, I pointed out that you are a Christian troll. Whatever your experience is within your own family is your business. It isn’t a license to expound your frustration on others.

        I can accept the differences between everyone as long as they aren’t trying to lord over me. Everyone believes in something.

      4. Your intial post of we “being spoon fed the fairy tale of evolution” and “there were no witnesses etc.”. Is enough probable cause to trump your chip. You purposely made inflammatory statements to engage in a pissing contest. Then you eloquently back off as if you’re the good guy. I don’t need holy rollers spewing their nonsense, just like you don’t want to hear my rebuttal. Or do you? I’m sure you don’t claim innocence but, admit you have chip. My chip is seeing billboards of evolution characters with a red circle and slash through them demanding I must believe and to totally deny evolution. I say b.s. to encroaching on what I don’t believe in. and I admit my chip but, only when provoked. We have a right to speak our minds it doesn’t mean we like to hear it or have it on billboards. DNA does change with evolution. Besides I’m not a Christian troll, I’m someone who stands up for the rights of others who don’t believe the religious lies. If it’s in my face and I don’t agree, I will say something. You don’t have an open mind when you state “the fairy tale of evolution”.

      5. Read closer. You have me confused with tee square. Now you have to pull back and read it all, all over again. Reposition yourself based on what I said, not what others have said.

        I don’t see where tee square challenged you. He/she gave his/her opinion. That’s where the Christian troll accusation came from. You started the pissing contest, and you inflamed the conversation again. You are trying to prove yourself. But, no one cares about you enough for that to matter. That is the end result of your tenet.

        You decide to let billboards get to you (What evolutionary characters are you referring to? Because I’m blanking on the visual, due to the ambiguity of the reference). You have appointed yourself executioner of what you deem/proclaim to be foolish.

        If DNA does change over time, then the question remains: why did certain “species” stay what they are? It also assumes that everything is the same DNA, only some enlightened few have seperated themselves from the other scum (proverbial). That’s a bit elitist isn’t it?

      6. Even though the I mistaked Teesquare’s post for yours, it’s the same topic. You apparently care about what I say, otherwise you wouldn’t reply back. You let atheist posts get to you and i let billboards bother me. We are in the same lake, different boat. It takes more than enlightenment to be elitist. There’s no if; it’s a fact, DNA changes over time. Look it up.

      7. I would verbally attack any religion who’d instigate something. Who said I discriminate? If a Muslim or Buddhist wanted to air out their point of views, I’d air mine. Boo hoo nobody cares about me. lol! You really think I care?

      8. You still haven’t answered any of the questions. Why did thousands of species stop evolving and you got to be a human? What evolutionary characters were you referring to? Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, because I would agree those characters did evolve over time. They suck terribly, now that Mel Blanc died. How did tee square challenge you specifically? Did he attack your religion? You didn’t even read what he said. You saw the words God and Creator and went off. Obviously you lose all the family arguments which is why you think you can gain advantage in this forum. Again, just another theory……

        I bet if I look it up (again), the reference will be the same. It is a reference made by a fellow unbeliever that is willing to claim fact of a theory. At least there are history books, and artifacts that document the “fairy tale”. There are no documents, books, or physical evidence that prove these so called changes in DNA. If that is true then, doesnt that prove that DNA testing is invalid because, let’s say, Charlie Manson’s DNA has evolved, raising a reasonable doubt? Doesn’t that prove they can’t completely prove DNA testing?

        Quit commenting all the time. Proof of your narcism.

      9. Species didn’t stop evolving. Some became extinct like endangered species of today. Some stayed the same or got smaller like sharks and crocs. Alot had to do with structural DNA changing because of changing volumes of oxygen over time and environmental changes. Molecular adaptions of living things through millions of years.You ask why? Each plane of existence has it’s own division of energy. I have nothing against tee square or anyone else. If I’m bothered by what people say, I will speak up. Really, you hang your hat on history books and artifacts? There’s more to learn outside of books and artifacts. If I appear narcissistic, so be it. If you were aware to facts that I”m aware of, you’d appear narcissistic too. You comment as well, does that define you as narcissistic? I think not.

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