Snake With Legs: A Glimpse into Evolutionary Transition

“Imagine a Snake with legs.” this thought is crazy and mysterious for people. But, in fact, in the past, snakes move with legs. Deep down, this mysterious fact presents the evolutionary history of ancestor snakes. This article delves into how snakes evolved from their legged ancestors into the legless creatures we see today.

Early Snake Ancestors

The evolutionary journey of snakes began approximately 150-100 million years ago. During this period, the earth was dominated by dinosaurs, and the very first snake evolved from lizard-like ancestors. The ancestor snakes had legs, an interesting fact that made us curious to research the evolutionary history of snakes. Let’s explore the ancient snake that had legs with us…

Tetrapodophis Amplectus

The word Tetrapodophismeans is a “four-footed snake” discovered in Brazil. Approximately 120 million years ago, they had limbs with completely developed fingers and toes. Tetrapodophis don’t use these legs for walking; they only use them to capture prey, climb, and eat. These limbs create a link between early snakes and lizard-like ancestors.

Tetrapodophis Amplectus

Najash pioneering

“Najash” is derived from the Hebrew word “Nachash,” which means snake. Ninety million years ago, Najash pioneering was discovered in Patagonia and Argentina. Like tetrapodophis, Najash also has well-developed legs that extend outside the body. Najash was a ground-dwelling snake, great at burrowing and moving through dense vegetation.

Pachyrhachis problematicus

Pachyrhachis were discovered in Israel around 100 million years ago. This marine snake had tiny, vestigial hind legs, indicating a transitional stage in snake evolution. They show that ancient snakes were discovered in different environments, like the sea, before becoming completely legless.


Leptotyphlopidae and Typhlopidae

Leptotyphlopidae and Typhlopidae snakes are also called slender blind snakes or thread snakes. They have small pelvic bones left over from their legged ancestors. These bones don’t help them move but remind us of their evolutionary history.

Boas and Pythons

Boas and pythons have small, claw-like spurs near their cloaca, remnants of their hind limbs. These spurs are prominent in males, which helps them to stimulate during mating time.
The presence of vestigial limbs creates a great similarity between lizards and snakes.

Why Did Snakes Lose Their Legs?

The loss of legs in snakes gives them great benefits, which help them to survive.
Enhanced their Moving Speed
A snake without legs moves more frequently from narrow spaces like caves and dense underbrush.
Due to this adaptation, a snake can explore more habitats for living and finding their prey.
Excellent Hunting Techniques
Limbless snakes can hunt with new techniques such as constriction and ambush predation.
Constriction is a specialized wrapping technique modern snakes use to kill their prey.
Ambush is another special technique used by modern snakes, which ambush their prey by hiding in places where they blend in, staying completely still until an unsuspecting animal comes near. Then, they strike suddenly and decisively, either injecting venom or squeezing tightly to catch and immobilize their prey swiftly.
Burrowing Adaptation
Without legs, resistance is less, which helps them to move more efficiently through soil and sand. This adaptation allowed early snakes to exploit subterranean habitats, where they could find shelter and hunt for burrowing prey.
Modern Vestiges of Limbs
We all know that all modern species of snakes are limbless, but some species retain vestigial structures that remind us of their evolutionary past.

How do snakes move without legs?

Neither ancient snakes use their legs to move nor modern snakes. Snakes use their strong muscles to move; these muscles run along their body.
And contract in wave-like motion. These muscles push their body forward. The scales on their body help them to move without slipping.


In the past, snakes with legs were not just a crazy and mysterious fact but also a window to the evolutionary history of snakes. By studying the anatomy and transition from legged lizards to modern snakes, we learn how they lose their legs to become more efficient.

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