A mid-Cretaceous embryonic-to-neonate snake in amber from Myanmar

Lida Xing, Michael Caldwell, Rui Chen, Randall Nydam, Alessandro Palci, Tiago Simoes, Ryan McKellar, Michael Lee, Liu Ye, Hongliang Shi, Kuan Wang, Ming Bai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


We present the first known fossilized snake embryo/neonate preserved in early Late Cretaceous (Early Cenomanian) amber from Myanmar, which at the time, was an island arc including terranes from Austral Gondwana. This unique and very tiny snake fossil is an articulated postcranial skeleton, which includes posterior precloacal, cloacal, and caudal vertebrae, and details of squamation and body shape; a second specimen preserves a fragment of shed skin interpreted as a snake. Important details of skeletal ontogeny, including the stage at which snake zygosphene-zygantral joints began to form along with the neural arch lamina, are preserved. The vertebrae show similarities to those of fossil Gondwanan snakes, suggesting a dispersal route of Gondwanan faunas to Laurasia. Finally, the new species is the first Mesozoic snake to be found in a forested environment, indicating greater ecological diversity among early snakes than previously thought.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereaat5042
Number of pages9
JournalScience Advances
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2018


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