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What’s the Oldest Snake Fossil Ever Found?


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Snakes have a long, dynamic, and rather scary history. Unfortunately, their history is not as well-recorded as other types due to the fact that their bodies and skeletons aren’t excellent for fossil-making. However, researchers have actually discovered enough specimens to offer a good approximation of their evolutionary family tree along with the oldest snake fossils.

Take a take a look at for how long animals from the Serpentes suborder have actually been wriggling around!

When Did the Earliest Ancestors of Snakes First Appear?

Snake Skeleton with Jaws Open
The earliest snakes appeared about 100 million years back.

©David Herraez Calzada/

Like all other animals, snakes did not all of a sudden appear from no place in a form familiar to people today. Instead, modern-day snakes went through millions upon countless years of development to handle their present look. The earliest snakes appeared about 100 million years back. Before then, however, they established from other animals.

One of the oldest forefathers of snakes ever discovered was called Megachirella wachtleri. This reptile lived about 242 million years back, and fossils of the animal were discovered in Italy. The most fascinating feature of this fossil discovery and subsequent research study is that researchers found it was a real stem-squamate.

In other words, this was the oldest member of the Squamata, a huge order of flaky reptiles. This types might be the oldest forefather of snakes and lizards. At the really least, this animal and modern-day snakes and lizards had a typical forefather that lived about 240 million years back.  

Scientists utilized a brand-new procedure called microfocus X-ray calculated tomography to look inside the fossil specimen to learn more about its anatomy. As an outcome, they identified that Megachirella had a number of trademarks constant with other squamates, verifying its category.

So, the earliest forefathers of snakes appeared about 240 to 260 million years back, and researchers have actually discovered proof as far back as 242 million years back.

When Did True Snakes First Appear?

Snake Skeleton Closeup
Snakes initially appeared about 167 million to 143 million years back.


The initially real snakes might have looked like long back as 167 to 143 million years back. However, they were not rather like the snakes we understand today. Eophis Underwoodi resided in the Bathonian phase of the Middle Jurassic duration, approximately 143 to 167 million years ago. The fossils of this animal lay in England. The snake was notable due to the fact that it still had 4 legs.

However, 3 other snakes were discovered in the exact same sediment. They were Parviraptor estesi, Diablophis gilmorei, and Portugalophis lignites. The discovery of these snakes was substantial due to the fact that the oldest snake understood prior to this discovery had to do with 70 million years younger based upon the greatest price quote of 167 million years.

Najash rionegrina was a two-legged snake-like animal that lived about 90 million years back. Fossils of this animal were discovered in Argentina. Although this reptile lived 90 million years back, researchers have actually revealed that it probably was an early departure from the snake family instead of the oldest snake. This types might not have actually utilized its legs to move however to help it recreate. Thus, it was rather near to modern-day snakes in that it didn’t utilize its legs for mobility.

Finally, Dinilysia patagonica is the very first snake in the fossil record that did not have legs. This reptile lived about 85 million years back, countless years prior to the dinosaurs were erased. These snakes were particularly fascinating due to the fact that they had no legs or recurring internal structures that would have supported limbs.

As an outcome, they were most likely the oldest snakes that bore a similarity to modern-day snakes.

How Old Was the Oldest Snake Fossil Ever Found?

The oldest snake fossils ever discovered were 167 million years of ages. The snake fossils came from 4 various types that were discovered in comparable layers of sediment. The reptiles consisted of Eophis Underwoodi, Parviraptor estesi, Diablophis gilmorei, and Portugalophis lignites.

Eophis Underwoodi was most likely the oldest of them all, as much as 167 million years of ages, and it was discovered in Oxfordshire, England.  Parviraptor estesi was likewise discovered in England also. Meanwhile, Diablophis gilmorei was discovered in Colorado, United States. Portugalophis lignites lived about 157 and 152 years ago, and this snake was discovered in Portugal.

The remains of Eophis Underwoodi were fragmentary, but they were still enough to help scientists contextualize the age of the snake compared to other creatures.

What Did the Oldest Snake Fossil Teach Us?

The oldest snake fossils ever discovered taught scientists quite a bit. For one thing, they helped close the knowledge gap on the evolution of certain anatomical features present in snakes. After all, the oldest snake ever found, Eophis Underwoodi, had four legs.

Snakes that appeared later had vestigial leg structures, like Megachirella wachtleri. However, these were not used for moving, however they may have been used for aiding reproduction. Meanwhile, Dinilysia patagonica had no legs or support structures for limbs.

Those evolutionary changes solidified in the fossil record are extremely important for understanding the processes of evolution, tracking the progress of certain types of animals, and ensuring proper phylogenetic organization. Identifying the oldest snake fossils assisted in all those ways.

What’s the Oldest Snake to Ever Live?

The oldest snake to ever live was a 42-year-old Columbian boa named Ben. This creature lived from May 31, 1974, until June 6, 2016. This snake was recognized by Guinness World Records for its achievement.

The oldest snake currently living in captivity is a green anaconda from South Africa. This anaconda had lived for 37 years and 317 days by the time it was named the longest-living snake ever in May 2021. The snake was originally owned by a man named Paul Swires. He kept the snake from 1989 until 2004.

At that point, he turned it over to the care of Montecasino Bird Gardens in Johannesburg, South Africa. The snake is easygoing and measures about 16 feet long!

Several other unconfirmed contenders have emerged for the title of the oldest snake. Two ball pythons that were 47 and 62 are even older than the current record-holders, however they have actually not been confirmed yet.  

Up Next:

Discover the “Monster” Snake 5X Bigger than an Anaconda

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