Interesting Science Picture XVI

The story:

“Scientists have collected tens of thousands of fossils at this site in recent decades,” notes co-author Dr. Stephan Schaal of the Senckenberg Naturmuseum in Frankfurt, “but only these turtles are known to occur in pairs, a total of nine so far.” Detailed analysis of the fossil material revealed that each pair consists of a female and male individual. More importantly, even though the males typically face away from the females, the tail of some male individuals can be found wrapped under the shell of the female. “There is no doubt in my mind,” says Dr. Joyce, “These animals died some 47 million years ago in the act of mating. No other vertebrates are known to have died during this important biological process and then been fossilized.”

Source: W. G. Joyce, N. Micklich, S. F. K. Schaal, T. M. Scheyer. Caught in the act: the first record of copulating fossil vertebrates. Biology Letters, 2012; DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0361

Limb Loss in Scincid Lizards

I’m currently working on a long winded post about the new Homo erectus pelvis – which I hope to have up tomorrow – in the meantime it occurred to me that I had been meaning to mention a new paper in BMC Evolutionary Biology called Rapid and repeated limb loss in a clade of scincid lizards

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A Letter to Florida: Please Stop Releasing Snakes Into The Everglades

Dear Florida,
Between 1996 and 2006 an estimated 99,000 Burmese pythons were imported into the US, of these an estimated 30,000 now live in the Everglades. Worse yet, they, along with released Boas, are now breeding.

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More Evolutionary Studies on Lizards

A number of people have written on the recent news about the speedy evolution of some lizards. There is another study, recently published in the Journal of Experimental Biology that has some interesting evolutionary implications.

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Snake’s Legs and Ninety Two Million Year Old Fossils

The BBC has an interesting story about the use intense x-rays at the ESRF in France to image the hidden second leg of a fossil Eupodophis descouensi:

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Molecular Evolution and “Living Fossils”

A short, interesting, and busy paper in Trends in Genetics looks at molecular evolution among tuataras and comes up with some interesting results.

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I’m Beginning To Think That Pythons Are Not Terribly Bright

As a matter of fact I’m beginning to think that they are downright stupid. First, there was the python that ate the alligator, then one ate an electric blanket, a third tried eating a pregnant sheep. Now this…

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Friday Python Blogging

Pythons are rather cool, in that the hallmarks of their evolution (limb loss) can be seen. In that respect they are (like whales) good examples of the evolutionary process.

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During the course of their evolutionary history, which spans some 30-60 million years, snakes lost their limbs and pelvis. Except some species in the Boidae family (of which, pythons are a subfamily) still retain vestigial pelvis and limbs.

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Like other animals pythons are not immune from covergent evolution!

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Finally, some intersting links:

Vestigial Limbs ,

General info, Vestigial limbs, Vestigial limbs,

Phylogeny and evolution,

Mechanisms of limb loss,


Bibliography (asian boiids),

Molecular phlogeny,


Evolutionary issues,

EMBL Reptile Database,

More molecular phylogeny,

Cold Blooded News,

and finally Some paleontology