Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Evolutionary history of lizards and snakes reconstructed using massive molecular dataset

Date:
September 19, 2012
Source:
Stony Brook University
Summary:
A new study has utilized a massive molecular dataset to reconstruct the evolutionary history of lizards and snakes. The results reveal a surprising finding about the evolution of snakes: that most snakes we see living on the surface today arose from ancestors that lived underground.

Juvenile slow worm (Anguis fragilis), often mistaken for a snake.
Credit: Becky Stares / Fotolia

A new study, published online in Biology Letters on Sept. 19, has utilized a massive molecular dataset to reconstruct the evolutionary history of lizards and snakes. The results reveal a surprising finding about the evolution of snakes: that most snakes we see living on the surface today arose from ancestors that lived underground.

The article, entitled "Resolving the phylogeny of lizards and snakes (Squamata) with extensive sampling of genes and species," describes research led by John J. Wiens, an Associate Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University. The study was based on 44 genes and 161 species of lizards and snakes, one of the largest genetic datasets assembled for reptiles.

The results show that almost all groups of snakes arose from within a bizarre group of burrowing blind snakes called scolecophidians. This finding implies that snakes ancestrally lived underground, and that the thousands of snake species living today on the surface evolved from these subterranean ancestors.

The authors suggest that there are still traces of this subterranean ancestry in the anatomy of surface-dwelling snakes. "For example, no matter where they live, snakes have an elongate body and a relatively short tail, and outside of snakes, this body shape is only found in lizards that live underground," said Professor Wiens. "Snakes have kept this same basic body shape as they have evolved to invade nearly every habitat on the planet -- from rainforest canopies to deserts and even the oceans."

Co-authors of the study include Carl R. Hutter, Daniel G. Mulcahy, Brice P. Noonan, Ted M. Townsend, Jack W. Sites Jr., and Tod W. Reeder. The work was performed at Stony Brook University, Brigham Young University, and San Diego State University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stony Brook University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. J. Wiens, C. R. Hutter, D. G. Mulcahy, B. P. Noonan, T. M. Townsend, J. W. Sites, T. W. Reeder. Resolving the phylogeny of lizards and snakes (Squamata) with extensive sampling of genes and species. Biology Letters, 2012; DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0703

Cite This Page:

Stony Brook University. "Evolutionary history of lizards and snakes reconstructed using massive molecular dataset." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120919081834.htm>.
Stony Brook University. (2012, September 19). Evolutionary history of lizards and snakes reconstructed using massive molecular dataset. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120919081834.htm
Stony Brook University. "Evolutionary history of lizards and snakes reconstructed using massive molecular dataset." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120919081834.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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