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Pachyrhachis

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pachyrhachis

Pachyrhachis (Karen Carr)

Name:

Pachyrhachis (Greek for "thick ribs"); pronounced PACK-ee-RAKE-iss

Habitat:

Rivers and lakes of the Middle East

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (130-120 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 3 feet long and 1-2 pounds

Diet:

Fish

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Long, snake-like body; small hind legs

About Pachyrhachis:

There wasn't one single, identifiable moment when the first prehistoric lizard evolved into the first prehistoric snake; the best paleontologists can do is identify intermediate forms. And as far as intermediate forms go, Pachyrhachis is a doozy: this marine reptile possessed an unmistakably snake-like body, complete with scales, as well as a python-like head, the only giveaway being the pair of nearly vestigial hind limbs a few inches from the end of its tail. The early Cretaceous Pachyrhachis seems to have led an exclusively marine lifestyle; unusually, its fossil remains were discovered in the Ramallah region of modern-day Israel. (Oddly enough, the two other genera of prehistoric snakes possessing vestigial hind limbs--Eupodophis and Haasiophis--were also discovered in the Middle East.)

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