The Evolution of Madagascar’s Strange Blind Snakes
The blind snakes, which are often confused with earthworms, denoting a very interesting evolutionary history.
A team co-led by Blair Hedges, professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University, and Nicolas Vidal, the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, has discovered that blind snakes are one of the few groups of organisms that lived in Madagascar when this island is separated from India makes about 100 million years and still live today.
There are about 260 different species of blind snakes, constituting the largest group in the world of snake-like worms. These animals are common on tropical islands and southern mainland, but are present on all continents except Antarctica.
These snakes have poor vision (which is why they are called “blind”) and feed on social insects, including termites and ants. As there is hardly any known fossil snakes blind, has been difficult to reconstruct their evolution. In addition, due to its underground lifestyle, scientists have long wondered how they managed to spread from one continent to another.
In this study, the researchers investigated the development of blind snakes, by resorting to examine the genetics of living species.
The study authors extracted five core genes, which encode proteins of 96 different species of snake-like worms, to reconstruct the branching pattern of evolution and allow the computer, molecular clocks using estimated times of divergence of different lineages of blind snakes.
The results of this investigation show that the continental drift had an impact on the evolution of blind snakes, isolating populations from each other as they separated the continents.
The long isolation of Madagascar has led to the evolution of many endemic and unique animals, including the addition of this family of blind snakes, several lemurs, and other rare mammals. Unfortunately, both animals and plants are now endangered Madagascar of extinction because of habitat loss.