CHULIVER PEREYRA Mariana
Live birth in a 47-million-year-old snake
CHULIVER PEREYRA, MARIANA; SCANFERLA, AGUSTÍN; SMITH, KRISTER T.
Año: 2022 vol. 109
Viviparity is a widespread reproductive trait in snakes, although fossil evidence bearing on its evolution is extremely sparse. Here, we report an exceptional specimen of the minute booid snake Messelophis variatus recovered in the paleolake of the Messel Formation (early-middle Eocene, Germany). This gravid female contains at least two embryos located in the posterior third of the trunk region. The morphology, size, and degree of ossification of the cranial and postcranial remains indicate they correspond with late embryos. This specimen documents the first occurrence of viviparity in a fossil snake and extends the temporal distribution of this reproductive strategy in booid snakes by over 47 Ma. The evolution of viviparity in squamates has traditionally been associated with cold climates, but its presence at the dawn of the evolution of booids during early Palaeogene thermal peaks indicates that viviparity may have evolved under different selective pressures in this clade.