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Burrowing origin of modern snakes (free pdf)



Ben Creisler
bcreisler@gmail.com


A new paper in open access:


Hongyu Yi and Mark A. Norell (2015)
The burrowing origin of modern snakes.
Science Advances 1 (10): e1500743
doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1500743
http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/10/e1500743
http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/advances/1/10/e1500743.full.pdf

Modern snakes probably originated as habitat specialists, but it
controversial unclear whether they were ancestrally terrestrial
burrowers or marine swimmers. We used x-ray virtual models of the
inner ear to predict the habit of Dinilysia patagonica, a stem snake
closely related to the origin of modern snakes. Previous work has
shown that modern snakes perceive substrate vibrations via their inner
ear. Our data show that D. patagonica and modern burrowing squamates
share a unique spherical vestibule in the inner ear, as compared with
swimmers and habitat generalists. We built predictive models for snake
habit based on their vestibular shape, which estimated D. patagonica
and the hypothetical ancestor of crown snakes as burrowers with high
probabilities. This study provides an extensive comparative data set
to test fossoriality quantitatively in stem snakes, and it shows that
burrowing was predominant in the lineages leading to modern crown
snakes.

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