Information on Snakes
Snakes have been on this planet for many millions of years. The earliest fossils found suggest they have been with us for around 130 million years, since the Cretaceous period. This is when it is believe that the snake species split from other reptiles, namely lizards, and became a unique species. However, evidence is not completely flawed as the small bones of such creatures are easily destroyed or scattered over time.
Some of the really early finds put the origin of the ancestors of snakes and lizards as far back as the Triassic period, when dinosaurs first roamed the earth some 200 million years ago or more. The early evidence of snakes, fossils, shows them as stubby – short and heavy – creatures that were most likely burrowers and lived out of sight underground. Overtime their abilities to see and hear reduced as they evolved to meet the environment they lived in.
The link between lizards and snakes is based mainly on theory as there is a lack of indisputable evidence from early fossils. However they do share some unique characteristics which are fundamental to the reptile family. Snakes and their reptilian relatives, sit somewhere between mammals and fish. It is commonly believed amongst scientists that snakes evolved from a burrowing type of primitive lizard that fed on subterranean creatures and avoided contact with larger predators based above the ground. This life evolution has resulted in the eyes developing special protective covers and the ears losing their protrusions and becoming little more than small holes on the sides. It has also forced the snake to develop an ability to detect sound through vibrations and an acute sense of smell and touch.
The modern-day snake and lizard bear little evidence of any links from the past. In fact it was once though that the amphisbaenians, a sort of worm like legless lizard, was the missing link and was in fact a lizard in the process of evolving into a snake. However research has shown that this creature has evolved separately from snakes and lizards and so does not represent any form of evolutionary link.
There are 11 families of snakes and this is further broken down into 354 genera or sub groups. In total there believed to be around 3000 species of snakes roaming our earth today. Snakes form one of the 4 groups of reptiles known as Squamata, this also includes lizards and amphisbaenians. The snake sub-species of Squamata is called Serpentes – taken from the Latin serpens which means a crawling animal or snake. Hence the term Serpents which has come to mean a snake-like creature.
There are snakes widespread across the planet but most of them are concentrated in the warmer climates and their sizes and populations are notably larger as the climates improve. Conversely, high altitude and cooler climates experience smaller snakes and reduced numbers. This is because snakes are cold-blooded and their activity is proportional to the warmth of the climate they live in.
In spite of these environmental challenges, remarkably, snakes have populated a very high percentage of the earth’s surface.