To reach this conclusion, the researchers who conducted the study collected data from 73species of reptiles, both snakes and lizards, and analyzed their DNA, fossils and anatomic structure.
According to their findings, the first ancestor of the modern snakes was most likely a nocturnal creature and lived more than 128 million years ago in warm, damp forests.
The recent findings are very relevant because they shed new light on the origins of snakes.
Currently, there are more than 3,400 species of snakes on Earth that live in almost all types of habitats.
However, the experts know very little about when, where and how they evolved into the slithering creatures of today.
Allison Hsiang, an expert in geology and geophysics at Yale University and one of the lead researchers of the new study, explained that the scientists used genetic and anatomic data in order to reconstruct the behavior of the first species of snake that lived on Earth.
Using the all the data they could find, the researchers managed to create a comprehensive family tree of snakes by identifying the similarities and differences of the species.
According to the researchers’ theories, the ancestor of all snakes most likely was a night hunter and fed on soft-bodied vertebrates as well as on invertebrates.
The scientists wrote in their paper that the first species of snake ate prey that was not larger than the size of its head.
According to the researchers, the earliest snakes could not eat larger animals because they did not have the ability to constrict their prey, like the modern-day boa constrictor.
The ancient snakes probably used their needle-thin but very sharp teeth to catch their prey before swallowing it whole.
The researchers added that these prehistoric snakes lived in regions where there was plenty of vegetation and the weather was warm and humid.
The ancestor of all the modern snakes and lizards is thought to have emerged in the middle of the Early Cretaceous period, approximately 128 million years ago.
This snake lived on the supercontinent known as Laurasia, which consisted of what is now Asia, Europe and North America.
The snake ancestor then moved to another supercontinent called Gondwana about 20 million years later. This huge continent was made of Australia, Antarctica, Africa and South America.
The new findings on the origins of snakes were published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.
Image Source: yale