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ScienceShot: Plate Tectonics Help Snakes Evolve

30 March 2010 8:01 pm
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Blair Hedges

Say you're a little blindsnake, minding your own business, living in a burrow in southern India about 100 million years ago. Unlike your above-ground cousins, whose meanderings will eventually take them into new habitats and evolutionary niches, you're not going anywhere. So what's evolution got to do with you? Well, it turns out that sometimes creatures roam the earth and evolve, and sometimes the earth roams and creatures evolve. That's what researchers have found about the scolecophidians, the 260 different species of blindsnakes that live on every continent except Antarctica. By examining selected parts of these reptiles' genomes, a team reports tomorrow in Biology Letters that scolecophidians must have branched into new species as the continental land masses split apart millions of years ago. Their populations became isolated from one another, which is why this particular specimen now lives on the island Madagascar.

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