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Snakes evolved from blind underground snakes. Albino San Diego gopher snake. Photo by Thinkstock
The evolution of snakes shows that today's reptiles evolved from ancestors that lived below ground, according to a new study published in the journal Biology Letters. The study, "Resolving the phylogeny of lizards and snakes (Squamata) with extensive sampling of genes and species" takes a look at 44 genes and 161 species of lizards and snakes and concludes that virtually all snakes of today evolved from a group of blind snakes called scolecophidians that lived underground.
The study, led by researcher John J. Wiens, an associate professor at Stony Brook University's Department of Ecology and Evolution also suggests that the anatomy of today's snakes can still be traced to the underground species. Wiens notes that no matter where snakes can be found today, they still retain an elongate body and short tail, a trait that is only found in lizards that dwell underground. This body shape is nearly the same in all areas in which snakes can be found, be it rainforest canopies to deserts and oceans, he said.
An abstract of the study can be found on the Biology Letters website.