TECH

Snake Fossil Discovery Shows Reptile With Four Legs

24/07/2015 13:09 BST | Updated 24/07/2015 13:59 BST

If you thought snakes were legless creatures, you thought wrong.

Scientists have discovered a fossil that depicts an ancient reptile, which they believe to be a snake, with four limbs.

fourlegged snake

This is the first time a fossil of a four-legged snake has been found. It was discovered by Dr. David Martill of the University of Portsmouth who found the 110-million-year-old specimen from Brazil, while on a field trip with his students.

"The fossil was part of a larger exhibition of fossils from the Cretaceous period," Marthill said.

"It was clear that no one had appreciated its importance, but when I saw it I knew it was an incredibly significant specimen."

fourlegged snake

In a paper published by Science, researchers described a key characteristic that classifies the fossil as a snake and not a lizard -- its long body to tail ratio.

Lizards have long tails and short bodies, but researchers counted 160 vertebrae in the snake's body and 112 in its tail.

They believe this could suggest that snakes evolved from marine lizards.

Cnet reports Marthill saying: "It is generally accepted that snakes evolved from lizards at some point in the distant past."

"What scientists don't know yet is when they evolved, why they evolved, and what type of lizard they evolved from.

"This fossil answers some very important questions, for example it now seems clear to us that snakes evolved from burrowing lizards, not from marine lizards."

four legged snake

READ MORE: