"This unique and very tiny snake fossil is an articulated postcranial skeleton, which includes posterior precloacal, cloacal, and caudal vertebrae, and details of squamation and body shape", the researchers explained in the study. The fossil also showed the beginnings of other features found in adult snakes that were growing exactly as they do in contemporary snakelets. The fossil, dating back to the Late Cretaceous period, is the oldest baby snake fossil ever found to date, and the first snake we know of that lived in a forest. The fossil, which is the first of its kind, is around two inches in length and has 97 vertebrae. That's a telltale sign that the snake was still developing, as well as the first direct evidence that the developmental processes seen in a baby snake's spine were established at least about 100 million years ago and have remained relatively unchanged since then. Before this finding, paleontologists had not uncovered a fossilized baby snake even in the rock fossil record, said Caldwell.
The ancient embryo was studied using CT scans because there is now no technology available to remove the amber while keeping the fossil intact. The species from which it came from remains unknown, though, as the discarded skin was not enough to identify it.
Oldest Fossil of a Baby Snake Discovered Trapped in Amber Tomb
Snakeskin fragments retrieved from the Myanmar amber. Image credit: Xing et al, doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aat5042. The Cretaceous period lasted about 186 million years, when dinosaurs existed."Means two very important scientific implications and conclusion from the discovery of such fossils - said Professor Michael Caldwell of the University of Alberta - due to the fact that it was a baby, and due to the fact that the now existing scientific technology allow us to see the smallest details of the things inside them, and we can depict the anatomy of the sperm of the snake and look into it and compare his bones with the bones may close in part of the living serpent".
Xiaophis myanmarensis lived in a forest environment in what is now Myanmar.More news: Archaeologists Find Unexpected Contents Inside Alexandria Coffin
The discovery suggests snakes were more ecologically diverse than previously thought and provides "exceptional and unexpected insights into the evolution of one of nature's most successful and iconic animal groups", according to the study published Wednesday.
The fossil of a baby snake has been discovered entombed inside amber.More news: Iran takes United States to ICJ over re-imposed sanctions
But in an interesting twist of fate, it was encased in resin and found by humans 99 million years later in Myanmar. "When it caught the baby snake, it caught the forest floor with the bugs, plants and bug poop - so that it is clear the snake was living in a forest". The study's team used CT scans to analyze the remains and compare them with the infants of modern snakes. "Some rows converge as observed ventrally in extant snakes", the scientists said.
As Caldwell pointed out, Xiaophis myanmarensis was found to belong to "an ancient lineage living in the southern hemisphere continents of Gondwana" - an ancient supercontinent comprised of South America, Africa, India, Australia, and Antarctica, the Inquisitr previously reported.More news: Taylor Swift cast in movie version of 'Cats' - Hollywood reports