The mass extinction between the Cretaceous and Paleogene saw an explosion in snake biodiversity.
The torment of the dinosaurs was good news for snakes. According to new research, the biodiversity of snakes began to increase shortly after the extinction of the Cretaceous period - the Paleogene - as you know, a planet formed 66 million years ago by the impact of a large asteroid. The asteroid caused the extinction of about 75% of all species and all non-flying dinosaurs.
But the blow gave early snake species a chance and space to thrive, and it worked. Currently, there are about 4,000 species of long-legged reptiles. To study this evolutionary change, a team of diet researchers examined extant snake species for a look into the past. "After the K-Pg extinction, [snakes] just had this big environmental explosion," Michael Grandler, co-author of the paper and a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Ars.
As it turns out, fossils of snakes are hard to come by. Large snakes are rarely found because their bodies are loose and can disintegrate quickly." Fossils are really rare. And when we see them in the fossil records, it's usually just a grain, and often not a skull, so we can't be aware of their environment. "It's not like a big mammal or a big dinosaur with four limbs and very strong bones." With snakes, you have all these fragile beads... Their skulls are also loosely expressed. "
For this reason, the team responsible for the new research made comparisons between existing species. The researchers examined the diet information of 882 species of live snakes, which are often kept in museum collections, and used a model they used in mathematics to reconstruct. Building the diet of their ancestors, it may seem difficult to identify the ancestors of snakes from millions of years ago, but Grundler says, "As long as we have good information about living species and their evolutionary relationships, their lineage can be traced. p > Advertising
According to the researchers' model, the most common ancestor of all extant snakes was the insectivorous. Before the mass extinction, there may have been snakes made of rodents. "An asteroid collided, and it is likely that these animals became extinct, although it is still unclear." The remaining snakes flourished and diversified in different ways. This is due to the fact that many ports were left open after the impact. Likewise, there were more small vertebrate animals such as birds to hunt. But with the diversity of snakes, there was a growing variety of diets - sometimes eating crazy, big food like antelopes. "Modern snakes have a very diverse and amazing diet," says Grundler. “They all developed this variety from one ancestor.”
This study also shows that the increase in snake biodiversity has been slowed for most snake species by settling in their new habitats. However, species that reached new areas continued to adapt in different ways.
According to Grundler, this research can help us understand how families respond to environmental opportunities. It also adds to the body of research on the ecological history of snakes. Another article published in September shows similar results. "It also highlights the importance of our natural history museums and data collection on animals in nature," he said. /r>
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