How Dinosaurs Die Leading to the Rise of Snakes


The destruction of dinosaurs are good news for snakes. Agreed to new research, snake biodiversity began to increase shortly after the Cretaceous –Paleogene extinction of the world-you know, the one caused by a massive asteroid impact 66 million years ago. The asteroid caused nearly 75 percent of all species, and all non-avian dinosaurs, to disappear.

Yet the effect gave primordial snake species time and space to thrive, and they did. Today, there are about 4,000 species of elongated, legless reptiles. To study this evolutionary change, a group of researchers examined the diets of existing snake species to look at the past. “After the K – Pg extinction, [snakes] just dampened by this rapid ecological explosion, ”Michael Grundler, one of the paper’s authors and a postdoc researcher at UCLA, told Ars.

As it turns out, snake fossils are hard to come by. It is rare to find any good snakes because their bodies are free to speak and can break easily. “They are rare in fossil record. And when we see them in the fossil record, they’re usually very small vertebrae, often not really a skull, so we can’t understand their ecology, ”Grundler said. “It’s not something like a big mammal or a big dinosaur with four body parts, and the bones are pretty strong. In snakes, you all have weak vertebrae… their skull is also loosely expressed. ”

As a result, the team behind the new research uses making comparisons between existing species. The researchers looked at dietary information from 882 living snake species — often made in museum collections — and used a mathematical model to reconstruct the diets of their ancestors. . It may seem hard to know something about the ancestors of snakes millions of years ago from this, but Grundler says that, as long as there is good data on living species and their evolutionary relationships, it is possible to trace their lines of origin.

Consistent with the researchers ’model, the likely common ancestor for all existing snake species is an insectivore. Before the extinction of the majority, there may have been snakes that ate rats and other animals. However, after the asteroid hit, the animals may have died, even if they weren’t sure yet, Grundler said. “What we get from the model is like a very good guess,” he said.

(Anywhere even if you go further back also a common ancestry between snakes and other different reptiles, but what it looks like and how it behaves is still a debate, he said.)

After extinction, the remaining snakes evolved and varied into many different species. This is likely because, in evoking the impact, many niches are left open. Similarly, there are more small vertebrate critters, such as birds, to prey on. But with the diversity of snakes comes a growing diversity in terms of diet – sometimes they eat crazy things. such as antelopes. “Modern snakes have many, surprisingly different types of food,” Grundler said. “They all change differently from an ancestor.”

Research also suggests that increasing snake biodiversity slows down for most snake species as they settle in their new habitat. However, species that have reached new areas continue to adapt in different ways.

According to Grundler, this research can help us understand how generations respond to ecological opportunities. It also adds to the body of research surrounding the ecological history of snakes; another role published in September showed similar findings. “It also speaks to the importance of our museums in natural history and collecting data on wildlife in nature,” he said.

This story originally appeared Ars Technica.


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