PerspectiveEvolutionary Biology

Limbless Tetrapods and Snakes with Legs

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Science  17 Mar 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5460, pp. 1939-1941
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5460.1939

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A debate is raging among evolutionary biologists about the origins of snakes: did the ancestors of our modern day slippery serpents slither out of the sea or were they always land dwellers. Greene and Cundall explain the evidence for and against a marine origin for snakes. In particular, the finding of a new, almost complete, Cretaceous snake fossil with well-developed hindlimbs in the Middle East ( Tchernov et al.) suggests that the ancestors of snakes may have been landlubbers after all.