The skull of Sanajeh indicus, a Cretaceous snake with an upper temporal bar, and the origin of ophidian wide-gaped feeding


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Article
Language
English
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Abstract
Recent phylogenetic analyses differ in their interpretations of the origin and interrelationships of snakes, resulting in polarized views of snake ecology, habit and acquisition of features associated with wide-gaped feeding (macrostomy). Here, we report a new specimen of the Late Cretaceous nest predator Sanajeh indicus that helps to resolve the origin of macrostomy. The new specimen preserves an ossified upper temporal bar and a posteriorly expanded otooccipital region that lacks a free-ending supratemporal bone and retains a lizard-like palatomaxillary arch that allows limited movements during swallowing. Phylogenetic analyses of a large-scale total evidence dataset resolve Sanajeh near the base of Pan-Serpentes, as the sister group of Najash, Dinilysia and crown-group Serpentes. The Cretaceous Tetrapodophis and Coniophis represent the earliest-diverging members of Pan-Serpentes. The Cretaceous hindlimbed pachyophiids and Cenozoic Australian ‘madtsoiids’ are inside crown Alethinophidia, whereas mosasaurs are recovered invariably within anguimorphs. Our results suggest that the wide-gape condition in mosasaurs and snakes might have evolved independently, as functionally distinct mechanisms of prey ingestion. The intermediate morphology preserved in Sanajeh indicates that ingestion of large prey items (macrophagy) preceded wide-gaped, unilateral feeding (macrostomy), which appeared 35 Myr later, in the common ancestor of pachyophiids, Cenozoic Australian ‘madtsoiids’ and alethinophidians.
Reference
Zaher H, DMM, Grazziotin FG, Mantilla JAW. The skull of Sanajeh indicus, a Cretaceous snake with an upper temporal bar, and the origin of ophidian wide-gaped feeding. Zool J Linn Soc. 2022 May; in press, zlac001. doi:10.1093/zoolinnean/zlac001.
Link to cite this reference
https://repositorio.butantan.gov.br/handle/butantan/4355
URL
https://doi.org/10.1093/zoolinnean/zlac001
Issue Date
2022

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