A fossilized snake found in Lebanon may unlock part of the evolutionary plight of these creatures:
A new look at a 95-million-year-old fossilized snake reveals two tiny leg bones attached to the slithery creature’s pelvis. A three-dimensional reconstruction of the bones could help researchers understand how snakes evolved to lose their legs.
The fossil, found in Lebanon, is from an era when snakes had not yet completely lost the hind limbs left by their lizard ancestors.
The fossil is not new but, thanks to technology, they’ve been able to penetrate the stone without breaking it:
One-inch-long fossilized leg bone is visible on the surface of the fossilized Lebanese snake, but half the pelvis (where another leg would be expected) is buried in rock. The 19-inch-long (50 centimeter) snake (called Eupodophis descouensi) is one of only three snake fossils with its hind limbs preserved, so breaking it open to look for the other leg was out of the question, said study researcher Alexandra Houssaye of the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris.
Instead, the researchers used a technique called synchrotron-radiation computed laminography (SRCL). Like a medical computed tomography (CT) scan, SRCL uses X-rays to image the internal structure of an object, but at 1,000 times higher resolution.
The scanning revealed a hidden leg, bent at the knee but lacking foot and toe bones.