What’s the difference between a snake and a lizard? If you answered “legs,” you are now officially dead wrong. A snake fossil with four limbs each ending in five seemingly functional digits has been discovered, bringing with it a new theory as to how modern-day snakes evolved. The research was published today in the journal Science.
The snake, aptly named Tetrapodophis amplectus, or grasping four-legged snake,was discovered in the Museum Solnhofen in Germany by paleobiologist David Martill of the University of Portsmouth, the UK, while on a field trip with students. “The fossil was part of a larger exhibition of fossils from the Cretaceous period,” Martill said in a statement. “It was clear that no one had appreciated its importance, but when I saw it I knew it was an incredibly significant specimen.”The fossil was from Brazil and is around 110 million years old. And, although fossils of snakes have been found with legs before, the limbs in question were two useless hind legs. This is the first snake fossil discovered with four legs.