Fossils Of An Ancient Winged Serpent Unearthed In Tennessee

First Posted: May 18, 2017 05:42 AM EDT

The fossilized remains of an ancient winged serpent have been unearthed in a 5-million-year-ol sinkhole in a place called Gray Fossil Site in Tennessee. This new snake species is named Zilantophis schuberti. It inhabited the Earth about 5 million years ago.

The discovered snake species, though it had wing-shaped projections on the sides of its vertebrae, cannot fly. With this, the researchers said that the ancient creature was a new species.

The findings were published online in the Journal of Herpetology on April 13, 2017. The study was led by Steven Jasinski, a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania and acting curator of paleontology and geology at the State Museum of Pennsylvania, and other colleagues, according to Live Science.

Jasinski said that the snakes' vertebrae are significant to the classification of the creatures' fossils. He further said that snakes do not have legs or arms. On the other hand, they have high numbers of vertebrae. He added that these are often the bones that scientists use to determine the fossil snakes.

The new species of a winged snake was named Zilantophis schuberti, also referred to as Schubert's Winged Snake or Schubert's Winged Serpent. Schuberti is derived from the name of the researchers' adviser Baline Schubert, the executive director of East Tennessee State's Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology. Meanwhile, the Zilantophis comes from the word "Zilant," which was a winged serpent in Tatar mythology.

The new winged snake species was about 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 centimeters) long. Jasinski said that this small snake often lived in fallen leaves and ate insects. Its close relatives are the rat snakes and kingsnakes.

Meanwhile, the winged serpent in the "Dungeons and Dragons" fantasy role-playing game is referred to as the flying snake. It has feathered wings and could fly. It also has a stingray-like fan at the end of its tails and a small crest. This winged serpent inhabits in the jungle and is known as the magical beast. 

See Now: NASA's Juno Spacecraft's Rendezvous With Jupiter's Mammoth Cyclone

©2017 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission. The window to the world of science news.

Join the Conversation

Real Time Analytics