All modern snakes evolved from a handful of species that survived the dinosaur-killing asteroid 66 million years ago, study finds 

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  • According to scientists, the asteroid was a form of ‘creative destruction’
  • This allowed the snakes to diversify into new niches that had previously been filled by competitors.
  • The findings also suggest that snakes began to spread around the world around this time.

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One study suggests that all living snakes evolved from a handful of species that survived the giant asteroid impact.

Researchers say the catastrophic extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous was a form of creative destruction that allowed snakes to diversify into new niches that were previously filled by their rivals.

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According to the study, snakes, including about 4,000 living species today, began to diversify around a time when an extraterrestrial impact wiped out the dinosaurs and most other species on the planet.

Scientists from the University of Bath and colleagues from Bristol, Cambridge and Germany used the fossils and analyzed genetic differences between modern snakes to reconstruct their evolution.

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The analysis helped pinpoint the evolutionary timing of modern snakes.

The results show that all living snakes are known to belong to a handful of species that survived the asteroid impact 66 million years ago, which wiped out the dinosaurs.

A study shows that all living snakes evolved from a handful of species that survived the giant asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs

Lead author Dr Katherine Klein, who now works at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU) in Germany, said: ‘This is remarkable, because not only are they surviving the extinction that wiped out many other animals. but within a few millions of years they have been innovating, using their habitats in new ways.’

Researchers say the snakes’ ability to shelter underground and live for long periods without food helped them survive the devastating effects of the impact.

The extinction of their competitors allowed snakes to move to new niches, new habitats, and new continents.

Researchers say the snakes' ability to shelter underground and live for long periods without food helped them survive the devastating effects of the impact

Researchers say the snakes’ ability to shelter underground and live for long periods without food helped them survive the devastating effects of the impact

They began to diversify, producing offspring such as vipers, cobras, garter snakes, pythons and boas, exploiting new habitats and new prey.

The study also shows that snakes started spreading around the world around this time.

Dr Nick Longrich, of the Milner Center for Evolution at the University of Bath and corresponding author, said: ‘Our research shows that extinction acted as a form of constructive destruction – by erasing out older species, it allowed survivors to exploit gaps. allowing ecosystems, experimenting with new lifestyles and habitats.

‘This appears to be a common feature of evolution – this is the period immediately after major extinction where we see evolution at its most wildly experimental and innovative.

The destruction of biodiversity creates space for new things to emerge and colonize new lands.

‘Eventually life becomes even more diverse than before.’

The new study is published in Nature Communications.

Killing the dinosaurs: How a city-sized asteroid wiped out 75 percent of all animal and plant species

The non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out about 66 million years ago and wiped out more than half of the world’s species.

This mass extinction paved the way for the rise of mammals and the appearance of humans.

The Chicxulub asteroid is often cited as a possible cause of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.

The asteroid now slammed into a shallow sea in the Gulf of Mexico.

The collision left a huge dust and soot cloud that triggered global climate change, wiping out 75 percent of all animal and plant species.

The researchers claim that the soot needed for such a global catastrophe may only have come from a direct impact on rocks in the shallow waters around Mexico, which are particularly rich in hydrocarbons.

Experts believe that within 10 hours of the impact, a huge tsunami wave ripped through the Gulf Coast.

The non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out about 66 million years ago and wiped out more than half of the world's species.  The Chicxulub asteroid is often cited as a possible cause of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (stock image).

The non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out about 66 million years ago and wiped out more than half of the world’s species. The Chicxulub asteroid is often cited as a possible cause of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (stock image).

This caused earthquakes and landslides in areas as far as Argentina.

During the investigation of the incident, researchers found small particles of rock and other debris that fell into the air when the asteroid crashed.

These tiny particles, called spheres, covered the planet with a thick layer of soot.

Experts say that the loss of light from the Sun caused the aquatic system to collapse completely.

This is because the phytoplankton base of almost all aquatic food chains would have been eliminated.

It is believed that the more than 180 million years of evolution that brought the world to the Cretaceous point was destroyed in less than the lifetime of a Tyrannosaurus rex, which is about 20 to 30 years.

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