Tag Archives: evolution

… And now for something completely different

Snake fossil discovered with legs

While I neither teach Biology, nor is it my primary area of interest, I do love all things science and this is no different. Fossils have been discovered that have found an evolutionary 'missing link' between snakes and other reptiles. The really interesting thing about these fossils is that they HAVE LEGS! The fossil is over a hundred million years old and was discovered in Brazil.

Check out the story here or click on the image

Fossil of snake with legs

Fossil of snake with legs

 

 

 

 

 

 

These legs come as no surprise to biologists who have predicted this as a number of species of snakes carry 'spurs' that are vestigial leftovers from legs that have long since evolved away (see image below).

Spurs are vestigial remnants of legs on some species of snake

Spurs are vestigial remnants of legs on some species of snake

T-Rex wa a big chicken!

Fossilized feathers on the forelimb of a Zhenyuanlong dinosaur

Fossilized feathers on the forelimb of a Zhenyuanlong dinosaur

Ok, so that may be over exaggerating, but new fossils of a velociraptor relative have been unearthed with some evidence of soft tissue such as primitive feathers. While this is not my field of study, I (like many people) are fascinated by dinosaurs and would prefer the idea of scary (and scaly) beasties as seen in the Jurassic Park movies, but this discovery is interesting in another way. It demonstrates the evolutionary link between Dinosaurs of long ago and their feathery compatriots of today.

We used to think that this family of dinosaurs looked like this - scaly, probably brown and green and lean.

We used to think that this family of dinosaurs looked like this - scaly, probably brown and green and lean.

Of course the link between dinosaurs and birds has been something that paleontologists have been aware of for some time. Many dinosaurs have beaky snouts, stand on their back legs, have feeble front limbs (like chicken wings), lay eggs, make nests and other similar traits. However, the strongest link between the two groups is hips. There is a remarkable similarity between dinosaur hips and bird hips, and I believe (although I am no expert) that this similarity unites all dinosaurs.

Now we think they look more like a giant goose!

Now we think they look more like a giant goose!

The interesting question that paleontologists are asking now is: why did feathers evolve in the first place? This is why I love science: Just when you think that you know everything there is to know about nature, you realize that you're only just scratching the surface and there is another whole level underneath.