Friday, May 27, 2016

An enigmatic aquatic snake from the Cenomanian Cretaceous Venezuela

An enigmatic aquatic snake from the Cenomanian of Northern South America


Albino et al


We report the first record of a snake from the Cretaceous of northern South America. The remains come from the La Luna Formation (La Aguada Member, Cenomanian of Venezuela) and consist of several vertebrae, which belong to the precloacal region of the vertebral column. Comparisons to extant and extinct snakes show that the remains represent a new taxon, Lunaophis aquaticus gen. et sp nov. An aquatic mode of life is supported by the ventral position of the ribs, indicating a laterally compressed body. The systematic relationships of this new taxon are difficult to determine due to the scarcity of fossil material; it is, however, a representative of an early lineage of snakes that exploited tropical marine pelagic environments, as reflected by the depositional conditions of the La Aguada Member. Lunaophis is also the first aquatic snake from the Cenomanian found outside of the African and European Tethyan and Boreal Zones.

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