How did the demise of the dinosaurs lead to the emergence of snakes?

torment Dinosaurs were good news for snakes. according to new search, the biodiversity of snakes began to increase shortly after the mass extinction between the Cretaceous and Paleogene – you know, brought about by the impact of a huge asteroid 66 million years ago. The asteroid caused the extinction of about 75 percent of all species, and all non-avian dinosaurs.

But the impact gave primitive snake species the opportunity and space to thrive, and they did. Currently, there are about 4000 species of Long-legged reptiles. To study this evolutionary change, a team of researchers examined the diets of existing snake species for a glimpse into the past. After the K-Pg extinction, [snakes] I just underwent this massive environmental explosion,” Michael Grundler, one of the paper’s authors and a postdoc at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Ars.

As it turns out, snake fossils are hard to come by. It is rare to find any large snakes because their bodies are not articulated and can disintegrate quickly. “They are really rare in fossil record. And when we see them in the fossil record, it’s usually just small vertebrae, often not really a skull, so we can’t identify their environment,” Grundler said. . With snakes, you have all these fragile vertebrae… their skull is loosely articulated as well.”

For this reason, the team responsible for the new research has resorted to making comparisons between existing species. The researchers studied nutritional information from 882 living species of snakes – often found in museum collections – and applied a mathematical model to reconstruct the diets of their ancestors. It might seem difficult to learn something about the ancestors of snakes millions of years ago from this, but Grundler said that as long as we have good data on living species and their evolutionary relationships, it is possible to trace them along lineages.

According to the researchers’ model, the most common ancestor of all extant snakes was insectivorous. Before the mass extinction, there may have been snakes that ate rodents and other animals. After the asteroid impact, Grundler said, those monsters likely died, although this remains unconfirmed. “What we get from the model is a best guess,” he said.

(Somewhere in the back is also a file A common ancestor between snakes and other types of reptiles, but its form and how it behaves is still a matter of debate, he said).

After the extinction, the remaining snakes flourished and diversified into many different species. This is likely because, in the wake of the impact, many ports were left open. Likewise, there were more small vertebrates, such as birds, to prey on. But with the diversity of snakes came an increasing variety in terms of diet – sometimes they eat crazy big things like antelope. “Modern snakes have an amazingly large variety of diets,” Grundler said. “They all developed this variety from one ancestor.”

The research also indicates that the increase in snake biodiversity has slowed for most snake species as they settled into their new habitats. However, the species that reached new places continued to adapt in different ways.

According to Grundler, this research can help us understand how breeds respond to environmental opportunities. It also adds to the body of research on the ecological history of snakes; another paper Published in September shows similar results. “He also talks about the importance of our natural history museums and data collection on animals in nature,” he said.

This story originally appeared Ars Technica.

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