TECHNOLOGY

How the destruction of dinosaurs led to the rise of snakes


Its punishment Dinosaurs were good news for snakes. According to new research, snake biodiversity began to increase shortly after the extinction of the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass – you know, which was brought about 66 million years ago by a massive asteroid impact. About 75 percent of all asteroid species and all non-avian dinosaurs are extinct.

But its effects give the snake species a primitive chance and a chance to gain space and they do. Currently, there are about 4,000 species of elongated, legless reptiles. To study this evolutionary change, a team of researchers examined the diet of existing snake species to get a glimpse of the past. “After the abolition of K-PG, [snakes] It’s just a huge environmental explosion, “Michael Grandler, one of the paper’s authors and UCLA’s postdock researcher, told Ars.

As can be seen, snake fossils are hard to come by. It is rare to find any large snakes because their bodies are loosely exposed and can quickly disintegrate. “These are really rare in the fossil record. And when we look at their fossil record, it’s usually a bit of vertebrae, often not really a skull, so we can’t get a sense of their ecology, “said Grandler.” It’s not like a big mammal or a big dinosaur with four limbs There are and the bones are quite stiff.With snakes, you have all these fragile vertebrae … their skulls are also exposed quite loosely.

For this reason, the team behind the new study resorted to comparisons between existing species. Researchers have looked at the diet of 882 living snake species – which are often kept in museum collections – and applied mathematical models to reconstruct the diet of their ancestors. It may seem difficult to learn anything about the ancestors of snakes millions of years ago, but Grandler said that as long as we have good information about living species and their evolutionary relationships, it is possible to see their descendants.

According to the researchers’ model, the most probable common ancestor of all existing snake species was an insect. Before extinction, there were probably snakes that ate rats and other animals. After the asteroid hit, though, those animals probably died, although it’s still uncertain, Grandler said. “What we get from the model is like a best guess,” he said.

(Elsewhere in the back there is a common ancestor between snakes and other reptiles, but what it looked like and how it behaved is still controversial, he said.)

After extinction, the remaining snakes evolved and diversified into different species. This is probably because, in terms of impact, many niches were kept open. Similarly, there were smaller vertebrate craters like birds for hunting. But with the diversity of snakes comes a growing diversity in food – sometimes they eat big things like deer. “Modern snakes have a huge, striking variety,” Grandler said. “They all evolved that diversity from single ancestors.”

The study also found that the growth of snake biodiversity slowed down for most snake species as they settled in their new habitat. However, species that have reached new locales tend to adapt in different ways.

According to Grandler, this study helps us understand how breeds respond to environmental opportunities. It also adds to the body of research surrounding the environmental history of snakes; Another study published in September shows similar results. “It also speaks to the importance of our Natural History Museum and the collection of information on nature’s animals,” he said.

This story was originally published Ars technique.


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