New Delhi: US researchers have managed to identify a new species of snakes with uniquely broad wing-shaped projections.
The fossils of the new genus and species Zilantophis schuberti were discovered from the Gray Fossil Site in the US.
The study, published in the Journal of Herpetology, involved many hours of close examination of hundreds of dark mineral-stained snake fossils.
The biggest surprise was the discovery of vertebrae that did not match any known species of snake, living or extinct.
"Snakes do not have arms or legs, but they have high numbers of vertebrae. These are often the bones that paleontologists use to identify fossil snakes," said Steven Jasinski, a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania in the US.
Zilantophis bore uniquely broad wing-shaped projections on the sides of its vertebrae. In life, these were likely attachment sites for back muscles.
These features are what inspired the name of the new genus, derived from Zilant, a winged serpent in Russian mythology.
(With PTI inputs)