Another Transitional Fossil — Lizard to Snake

We found this news at the website of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), a consortium of more than a dozen countries operating a synchrotron in Grenoble. The article we’re going to discuss is X-rays reveal hidden leg of an ancient snake. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

A novel X-ray imaging technology is helping scientists to better understand how in the course of evolution snakes have lost their legs. The researchers hope that the new data will help to resolve a heated debate about the origin of snakes: whether they evolved from a terrestrial lizard or from one that lived in the oceans. New, detailed 3-D images reveal that the internal architecture of an ancient snake’s leg bones strongly resembles those of modern terrestrial lizard legs. The results are published in the 8 February issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

We looked, but we can’t find a link to that paper, so let’s read on:

Only three specimens exist of fossilised snakes with preserved leg bones. Eupodophis descouensi, the ancient snake studied in this experiment, was discovered ten years ago in 95-million-year-old rocks in Lebanon. About 50 cm long overall, it exhibits a small leg, about 2 cm long, attached to the animal’s pelvis. This fossil is key to understanding the evolution of snakes, as it represents an intermediate evolutionary stage when ancient snakes had not yet completely lost the legs they inherited from earlier lizards. Although the fossil exhibits just one leg on its surface, a second leg was thought to be concealed in the stone, and indeed this leg was revealed in full detail thanks to synchrotron X-rays.

Here’s a brief Wikipedia article on that fossil: Eupodophis. Amazingly, it’s already been updated to reflect what we’re writing about today. We continue with the ESRF article:

The high-resolution 3-D images, in particular the fine details of the buried small leg, suggest that this species lost its legs because they grew more slowly, or for a shorter period of time. The data also reveal that the hidden leg is bent at the knee and has four ankle bones but no foot or toe bones.

“The revelation of the inner structure of Eupodophis hind limbs enables us to investigate the process of limb regression in snake evolution,” says Alexandra Houssaye [of the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, who led the research team].

There’s more detail at the article we’re quoting from. Oh, you may be wondering why this news comes from ESRF. That’s explained by this excerpt:

“Synchrotrons, these enormous machines, allow us to see microscopic details in fossils invisible to any other techniques without damage to such invaluable specimens,” says Paul Tafforeau of the ESRF, a co-author of the study.

So there you are. Now you have two competing theories about the origin of snakes: One, that snakes evolved from lizards, and transitional fossils exist as evidence; or two, that snakes lost their legs in a Ka-boom! event in the Garden of Eden after one of them tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. You decide, dear reader.

Update: See Creationists Explain Lizard-to-Snake Fossil.

See also: How Did the Snake Lose Its Legs?

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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10 responses to “Another Transitional Fossil — Lizard to Snake

  1. Relatedness known via genes is confirmed by transitional fossil.

    Coincidence theory serves denialism yet again. All of our dovetailed evidence fails as it could be an extremely unlikely coincidence, while their lack of any sort of meaningful evidence trumps the improbability that life would simply “look evolved” by chance.

    It’s worldviews, you know. If in your worldview all evidence you don’t like is coincidental, however fantastic such a claim may be, well, isn’t it every bit as good as a worldview that relies upon probability–and which they accept up to the point where religion disagrees with the evidence?

    How dare the evilutionists regard all claims as being subject to the same standards of evidence?

  2. Well… now you’ve just got two more gaps to fill in with missing links… Maybe God just didn’t use enough kaboom magic when removing the serpent’s legs and it took a few generations? Oh, wait that would be evolution due to a selective pressure… magical though the pressure may be.

  3. Yes, yes, more missing links! You would think the Darwinists would learn to quit publishing these results…

    Pretty cool study, actually. I hope one of the discoveroids writes about it, or someone from AiG or ICR. I’m hoping AiG argues the Ka-boom theory. No one does original sin like AiG.

  4. Luskin, the DI’s resident earth “scientist” will take on the snizzard and I think it will be a slam dunk. Ya see, it’s not really a snake and it’s not really a lizard. Rather, ya see, it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other and never really went any place, just another sterile hybrid. Next case, your honor.

  5. Benjamin Franklin

    And the LORD God said unto Ben Franklin, What is this that thou hast done? And Franklin said, The Curmudgeon beguiled me, and I did read.

    And the LORD God said unto the Curmudgeon, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and the dust of the Discovery Institute shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.

  6. Benjamin Franklin, if you’re Eve, I’m glad I’m not Adam.

  7. Benjamin Franklin

    I had a raucous Superbowl party. It was the original din.

  8. It’s obviously the latter since the snakes lost the power of speech at the ame time as they became legless.

  9. retiredsciguy

    Ed: “I’m hoping AiG argues the Ka-boom theory. No one does original sin like AiG.”
    Richard T : “…snakes lost the power of speech at the same time as they became legless.”

    So, Ken Ham will have a hissy fit? Speaking of Ken Ham, I was watching a program last night on PBS about the early days of our space program. Now, Ken is probably too modest to claim any relationship, but it was a Ham who went into space in the first test of Project Mercury. I never made the connection before.

  10. Oh noes.
    Don’t we now have 2 more missing links to find? Things just keep getting more and more hard to explain when this new evidence like this gets found.