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Developmental Biology (1 of 2)

Studying the embryological development of living things provides clues to the evolution of present-day organisms. During some stages of development, organisms exhibit ancestral features in whole or incomplete form.

Snakes have legged ancestors
Some species of living snakes have hind limb-buds as early embryos but rapidly lose the buds and develop into legless adults. The study of developmental stages of snakes, combined with fossil evidence of snakes with hind limbs, supports the hypothesis that snakes evolved from a limbed ancestor.

fossil snake hindlimb Fossil snake hindlimb bones labelled
Above left, the Cretaceous snake Pachyrhachis problematicus clearly had small hindlimbs. The drawing at right shows a reconstruction of the pelvis and hindlimb of Pachyrhachis.

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Pachyrhachis photo © Michael Caldwell.
Reconstruction of Pachyrhachis bones after an illustration by Michael Caldwell, 1997.

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Spanish translation of Understanding Evolution For Teachers from the Spanish Society of Evolutionary Biology.