Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

50-million-year-old snake gets a CT scan

Date:
September 20, 2010
Source:
Methodist Hospital, Houston
Summary:
Even some of the most advanced technology in medicine couldn't get Clarisse to give up all of her secrets. After all, she's protected them for more than 50 million years. Clarisse is a snake, found in the Fossil Butte region of Wyoming, perfectly fossilized in limestone and the only one of her kind known to be in existence.

Lasers lock X-ray beams onto the remains of Clarisse, a 50-million-year-old snake. The fossil was scanned on a 64-slice CT scanner at The Methodist Hospital in Houston, and the resulting images were analyzed by Brazilian paleontologist Hussan Zaher. The snake is part of the collection at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and will go on display in 2012.
Credit: Photo by Denny Angelle/The Methodist Hospital System

Even some of the most advanced technology in medicine couldn't get Clarisse to give up all of her secrets. After all, she's protected them for more than 50 million years.

Clarisse is a snake, found in the Fossil Butte region of Wyoming, perfectly fossilized in limestone and the only one of her kind known to be in existence. Palentologist Hussan Zaher came to Houston at the behest of the Museum of Natural Science to study her.

He brought the precious find to The Methodist Hospital and subjected her to a detailed CT (computerized tomography) scan in hopes of finding where Clarisse fits along the timeline of evolution.

"Most fossilized remains of snakes are individual pieces of bone," said Zaher. "This is unique because it's a complete snake, which gives us an opportunity to study her makeup and hopefully learn more about her."

CT scan technician Pam Mager conducted the scan on a 64-slice scanner that is capable of sending laser-guided X-rays through a target. "We can take almost 3,000 images in less than a minute," she explained, "and then we can use those images to construct a three-dimensional picture of the snake's bone structure."

Zaher, professor and curator of the collections of herpetology and paleontology at the Museu de Zoologia of the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil, worked with the Museum of Natural Science in Houston to get Clarisse to Methodist for the scan. He believes Clarisse could be an evolutionary link between snakes who take a lot of small bites to eat their prey and snakes who swallow their prey whole.

The snake fossil was preserved in what is now limestone, and the entire chunk of rock was placed on the bed of the CT scanner. In less than a minute, the images were taken and assembled by computer into a three-dimensional image that could be rotated 360 degrees.

Taking a preliminary look at the images, Zaher said he saw no traces of limbs. "That places it higher up the evolutionary scale, but the snake is still very old," he said. For more than an hour, he and technician Mager studied the images, looking at tiny details of the snake's skull to find clues to how it may have eaten its prey.

Clarisse is the best preserved Caenozoic snake known in a U.S. scientific collection. According to preliminary analysis, this snake is believed to be closely related to Boavus indelmani, a booid snake described in the late 1930′s. Zaher and the Houston museum hoped that getting a look at the underside of this unique fossil, as well as the inside of bones like the skull would shed some light on the evolutionary history of the species, and its relationship to booid snakes (like pythons and boas).

"This is a very important step in studying this specimen ... I will be able to take away copies of the images for further investigation and I believe this will help us learn about this snake," Zaher said. "I cannot express my gratitude enough to (The Methodist Hospital) and the radiology services department here."

The snake is part of the collection at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Methodist Hospital, Houston. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Methodist Hospital, Houston. "50-million-year-old snake gets a CT scan." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100918212925.htm>.
Methodist Hospital, Houston. (2010, September 20). 50-million-year-old snake gets a CT scan. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100918212925.htm
Methodist Hospital, Houston. "50-million-year-old snake gets a CT scan." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100918212925.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — Hoping to break the record for world's wooliest, Shaun the sheep came up 10 pounds shy with his fleece weighing over 50 pounds after being shorn for the first time in years. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) — Canadian scientists looking into the very first land animals took a fish out of water and forced it to walk. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fake Dogs Scare Real Geese from Wis. Park

Fake Dogs Scare Real Geese from Wis. Park

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — Parks officials in Stevens Point, Wisconsin had a fowl problem. Canadian Geese were making a mess of a park, so officials enlisted cardboard versions of man's best friend. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins