The Surprising Evolutionary History of Lizards and Snakes
A new study, published online in Biology Letters, has utilized a massive molecular dataset to reconstruct the evolutionary history of lizards and snakes. The results reveal a surprising finding about the evolution of snakes: that most snakes we see living on the surface today arose from ancestors that lived underground.
The study was based on 44 genes and 161 species of lizards and snakes, one of the largest genetic datasets assembled for reptiles. The results show that almost all groups of snakes arose from within a bizarre group of burrowing blind snakes called scolecophidians. This finding implies that snakes ancestrally lived underground, and that the thousands of snake species living today on the surface evolved from these subterranean ancestors. The authors suggest that there are still traces of this subterranean ancestry in the anatomy of surface-dwelling snakes