Four legged snake found, according to reports in, Science (AAAS)
News, Nature News 23 July 2015, BBC News 24 July and Science
1doi: 0.1126/science.aac5672.
A team of scientists led by David Martell of Portsmouth University have studied a small, exquisitely preserved fossil of a snake and found that it had four limbs. The fossil was in the collection held by the Museum Solnhofen in Germany, but the researchers believe it came from the Crato Formation in north eastern Brazil, based on characteristics of the rock it is fossilised in. The Crato formation is dated between 113 million and 126 million years ago.

The fossilised creature is 20cm long, has 160 spinal vertebrae, and 112 vertebrae in the tail, a distinctly snake-like head and lower jaw with curved teeth, and scales that stretch across the full width of the belly, another feature only seen in snakes. Because of its overall small size the researchers suggest it is a juvenile.

The legs are only a few millimetres long, but contain limb bones including foot and toe bones. The toes are relatively long and the scientists suggest these were used for grasping mates or prey. Michael Caldwell, a palaeontologist at the University of Alberta, Canada commented that feet like these “are remarkably unusual unless you’re a tree-climber”.

The snake has been named Tetrapodophis amplectus, meaning “four footed snake that embraces”. One of the research team, Nick Longrich from the University of Bath, explained: “It would sort of embrace or hug its prey with its forelimbs and hindlimbs. So it’s the huggy snake”.

Bruno Simoes, and expert in snake evolution at the Natural History Museum, London, commented to the BBC: “It’s quite a surprise, especially because it’s so close to the crown group – basically, the current snakes. It gives us a good idea of what the ancestral snake was like”.

BBC, Nature News, Science, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: It’s good to see them catch up with us. John Mackay explained this whole scenario of snake leg loss in-depth at the 2014 AiG conference in Birmingham. So let’s give you the real picture! Tetrapodophis amplectus may be an ancestor of living snakes, but it is no evidence that snakes evolved from non-snakes. As Bruno Simoes admits this fossil is basically a current snake, but has legs. Therefore, the only real change that has occurred since this snake became fossilised is that snakes have lost their legs.

Recent research on genes that control embryonic development of the vertebrate body gives a clue how this may have happened. Defects in control of Hox genes in developing reptiles results in increasing vertebrae numbers as well as loss of limbs. Studies of reptiles such as lizards (See Lerista species in “Lizards Losing Limbs” 12 November 2008) shows some forms have four normal legs, whilst degenerate forms have two small front limbs with two normal rear limbs, then further degeneration produces forms with almost total leg loss, which reveals that defects in Hox control genes, also seem to eliminate front legs before back legs.

This new specimen has all four limbs diminished. Previous legged snake fossils have only had hind legs, so this new fossil is not as far down the limb-loss process. However, none of this is evolution – it is degeneration or devolution! And it fits perfectly into the Biblical history of snakes.

In the beginning serpents were created according to their kinds, just like all other animals. As part of God’s judgement after sin entered the world God condemned the serpent to crawl on its belly. This may have been an instant change for the one individual serpent involved in the fall of man, but as part of the overall degeneration of the world, serpents in general have mostly lost their limbs, and became the snakes we are familiar with today, only some of which retain truly vestigial legs, but all the time they have continued to reproduce after their kind. (Ref. serpents, reptiles, degeneration)

For more information on Snake legs:

QUESTION: If God removed snakes’ legs at the Fall, why are there fossil snakes with legs? Answer here.

LECTURE: “When Snakes had legs” with John Mackay. Free video: