You might hear about the most famous ‘Four Legged Snake’ which is actually a Be Dino-Era Lizard.
The surprising fossil can not be a snake after all, and it might have come to the scientists’ attention under troubling circumstances.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAHThe strange-looking fossil was hailed as a once-in-a-lifetime find: a rare snapshot of the way snakes evolved from four-legged lizards. But barely more than a year after it was unveiled, a fresh look at the animal suggests that it is no snake.
Perhaps even more troubling, the fossil may have first reached scientists’ hands under unethical—and possibly illegal—circumstances.
Originally, the 110-million-year-old fossil known as Tetrapodophis was interpreted to be a burrowing snake with two pairs of small limbs, potentially showing that snakes started out on land. If true, the six-inch-long animal would bring clarity to the scientific debate over whether snakes lost their limbs on land—the current favorite hypothesis—or in water.
The new reanalysis instead suggests that Tetrapodophis could be the oldest known dolichosaur, an extinct type of aquatic lizard that lived during the Cretaceous period. If it’s not a snake, the evolutionary waters get that much muddier. (Also see an amazing “nesting doll” fossil that reveals a bug in a lizard in a snake.)
“It doesn’t have to be a snake to be cool—it’s a very interesting thing all by itself,” says Mike Caldwell of the University of Alberta, who co-authored the latest analysis. “A four-legged snake will be really cool, and we will find one. But this one isn’t.”