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Missing link shows snakes evolved from sea monster



01:30 PM ET 04/16/97

Missing link shows snakes evolved from sea monster

         
        (Release at 2 p.m. EDT)
            LONDON (Reuters) - Snakes may be distantly descended from
giant sea monsters that died out with the dinosaurs, scientists
said Wednesday.
            They said a 97 million-year-old lizard whose bones were
found in Israel may be one of the earliest snakes and that they
had ``surprising and compelling'' evidence the nearest relative
of snakes were marine mosasauroids-- big sea lizards.
            Michael Caldwell, a paleontologist at the Field Museum in
Chicago and Michael Lee of the University of Sydney, joined
forces to take a second look at Pachyrhachis problematicus,
whose fossils were identified as belonging to an early lizard.
            It looked more like a snake that still had tiny hind legs,
they decided. Nicholas Fraser of the Virginia Museum of Natural
History, commenting on the report, noted that some modern boas
still have vestigial hind legs.
            Other features of the Israeli fossil indicated it was a
snake, not a lizard, Caldwell and Lee said. ``Pachyrhachis has a
small, narrow, lightly built skull showing most derived features
of modern snakes.''
            They said careful study of the skeleton showed resemblances
to marine mosasauroids, which they said could be, among lizards,
the ``nearest relatives (ancestors) of snakes.''
         ^REUTERS@

 ("`-''-/").___..--''"`-._        Paul E. Pettennude, Ph.D. 
  `6_ 6  )   `-.  (    ).`-.__.`) Maya Underwater Research Center 
  (_Y_.)'  ._   )  `._ `.``-..-'  pettennude@usa.net
 _..`--'_..-_/  /--'_.' ,'        Telephone (305) 554-1557 
(il),-''  (li),'  ((!.-'          Fax Phone (305) 554-1616