National

Reptile fossil may force rethink of snake theories

Kyodo

Researchers have found the fossilized remains of a new species of reptile, and they believe it is the world’s oldest of its kind and could be an ancestor of snakes.

According to the Ishikawa prefectural board of education, the fossil, with a long body and four short limbs, was discovered by a research team near the village of Shiramine, Ishikawa Prefecture, in the Kuwajima fossil bluff, which dates back 130 million years to the Lower Cretaceous Period.

The fossil, a species of Dolichosauridae, has features of both a snake and a lizard.

“It’s a primitive species of the Dolichosauridae, and could be an ancestor of snakes,” said Makoto Manabe, a researcher at the National Science Museum in Tokyo.

The oldest fossil of a Dolichosauridae ever found originates from about 100 million years ago, or the Late Cretaceous Period.

It was the first time that such a fossil was found in a place other than Europe, and also the first time for one to be discovered from what was once a freshwater area and not the sea.

The discovery casts doubt on the theory that snakes originated from the sea, Manabe said.

The fossil found in Shiramine is about 15 cm long, and the reptile is estimated to have had an overall length of about 40 to 50 cm.

It is presumed the creature crawled on the ground when moving and that it sometimes swam in the river, the researchers said.

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