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Canada Alberta scientist part of international discovery of ‘piece of the puzzle’ snake fossil

02:01  21 november  2019
02:01  21 november  2019 Source:   globalnews.ca

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a close up of a reptile: A discovery involving an international team of scientists, including from the University of Alberta, has shed light on the evolution of snakes. © Supplied / Fernando Garberoglio A discovery involving an international team of scientists, including from the University of Alberta, has shed light on the evolution of snakes.

A team of researchers, including an expert from the University of Alberta, say a 100-million-year-old cheekbone fossil found in Argentina is providing critical insight into the evolution of snakes.

The results of the international research were published in a study released Wednesday, show that ancient snakes had a cheekbone — also known as a jugal bone — which may not mean much to many, but to the scientists involved, it reveals a key detail about snake evolution.

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The fossil of a 43-million-year-old whale with four legs, webbed feet and hooves has been discovered in Peru. Researchers believe the discovery could shed light on the evolution of the whale and how it spread. "This is the most complete specimen ever found for a four-legged whale outside of India and

Ancient fossil appears to be an early snake , but scientific debate about its relations—and the relic itself—are stewing. Scientists have described what they say is the first known fossil of a four-legged snake . The team’s scientific interpretation may be the least controversial aspect of the discovery , which The front part of the fossil —which appears to be complete and has all bones in their original

"In the past, the fossil record of snakes has been pretty poor," said Michael Caldwell, a biological science professor and paleontologist based at the University of Alberta. "Lizards have more bones in the cheek region... than a typical modern snake does.

"It makes a difference when you're tracking the evolution of the ability to eat large prey, if you can accurately follow which bones were lost," said Caldwell.

The discovery is the culmination of years of research and a collaboration between the University of Alberta and Universidad Maimónides in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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"Our findings support the idea that the ancestors of modern snakes were big-bodied and big-mouthed — instead of small burrowing forms as previously thought," said Fernando Garberoglio, the Argentina-based lead author for the study.

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Part of HuffPost Science . ©2019 Verizon Media. The discovery of what's thought to be the first four-legged snake fossil is giving scientists a “I think the specimen is important, but I do not know what it is,” biological scientist Michael Caldwell of the University of Alberta told National Geographic.

Image. The skeletal remains of a new species of prehistoric snake preserved in amber found in Myanmar.Credit Ming Bai, Chinese Academy of Sciences . In 2016, Lida Xing was combing the amber markets of Myanmar when a merchant enticed him over to his booth with what he said was the skin of

The bone itself was found by Garberoglio several years ago in the Northern Patagonia region of Argentina. The region itself is a "treasure trove" of snake fossils, so Caldwell, one of the few snake scholars in the world, was called in as an adviser.

"I've been back and forth to Buenos Aires many times and I've brought Fernando here to the University of Alberta probably three or four times... in order to mentor him and work with him on this material," said Caldwell.

The reason that an Edmonton scientist had to go all the way to Argentina for this discovery is because while Alberta is fossil-rich, snake remains are generally not found in the region.

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"We do have snakes here, but we don't have the right preservational environment," said Caldwell. "Most of these big dinosaur bearing rocks [in Alberta] are all river-deposited sediments, and rivers move things around.

 "Snakes have got lots of tiny vertebra... and very delicate skulls."

Caldwell said that he was honoured to be involved in the research.

"Being able to reach out and connect with students and science problems around the world... it's made a complete difference in my professional career," said Caldwell.

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