Science in Action: Live Tweeting Fossil Snake Scanning Friday

Ever wondered where snakes come from? Why they’re poisonous? How they move so quickly? Or, how a a python could eat an alligator? Whether they freak you out or fascinate you, snakes are an ancient species with much to tell us about the process of evolution.

Enter Brazilian paleontologist Hussam Zaher and a one-of-a-kind, 50-million year old fossil snake from the Green River formation in Wyoming.

Snake Eye
Snake Eye by Care_SMC on Flickr

Zaher (professor and curator of the collections of Herpetology and Paleontology at the Museu de Zoologia of the Universidade de São Paulo) is currently in Houston to investigate this unique fossil, which is thought to be the evolutionary link between snakes who take a lot of small bites to eat their prey and snakes who swallow their prey whole (a la the famed alligator-hungry python linked above).

This Friday at 10 am, the fossil will undergo a 64-slice CT scan at The Methodist Hospital, giving Zaher a peek at the previously-unseen inside and underside. The cross-sectional images will allow him to examine the internal structure of the snake’s brain cavity to more accurately place it within the context of snake evolution.

We’ll be there to bring you the science as it is uncovered, by live tweeting (follow @hmns and #snakefossil) the scanning process on Friday morning. We’ll also be getting behind-the-scenes pictures for our Flickr photostream and a video reaction from Zaher once the fossil has been scanned that we’ll post as soon as we can.

Check out the blog tomorrow for a pre-scan post from Zaher. If you’ve got any specific questions you’d like answered, leave them in the comments!


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