Using a sophisticated scanning technology, scientists have found what might have been the colors of the skin of an ancient snake, discovered in a colorless fossil. Preserved as a fossil, the 10-million-year-old snake doesn’t have a head. It would have been green colored along with black or brown blotches, and pale on inside.
The study, which appeared on March 31 in the journal Current Biology, reported that the description is similar to some of the present day snakes that belong to the same family.
In a statement, study lead author Maria McNamara, a paleobiologist at University College Cork said, “When you find fossil tissues preserved with this sort of detail, you’re just gobsmacked when you’re looking at it under the microscope. I was astounded. You almost can’t believe what you’re seeing”.
The study concluded that the coloring of the snake would have helped it in hiding, and it was probably active in the day.
With the help of a powerful scanning electron microscope, scientists analyzed the snake’s chromatophores, the cells that are responsible for coloring. Then, they used what all they already knew regarding living snakes to detect the colors this snake would have had on its scaly skin.
McNamara said that it is for the first time that they have come to know that mineralized tissues can preserve color evidence.
Scientists firstly found this fossil in Spain in the early 20th century. It belongs to the collection at the Dinopolis museum in Teruel, Spain.
The study has asked for seeking other specimens that are preserved in the same material, calcium phosphate, which then may be studied in a similar way for the detection of actual colors of a few ancient creatures.