When we think of venomous vertebrates, snakes are usually the first animals that come to mind. But the first terrestrial vertebrate to possess a venomous bite was not a snake; It was a therapsid — an animal more closely related to mammals than reptiles.
Therapsids lived 272 to 237 million years ago between the Permian and Triassic periods, but not all of them had a venomous bite. However, we do know that at least one of them did; and researchers at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa shed light on this fascinating creature.
In South Africa, 257 million years ago (about 20 million years before the dinosaurs), a therapsid called Euchambersia mirabilis roamed what is now South Africa. It was found to have venom glands in its mouth, according to Dr. Julien Benoit, researcher at the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research at the University of the Witwatersrand:
“Today, snakes are notorious for their venomous bite, but their fossil record vanishes in the depth of geological times at about 167 million years ago, so, at 260 million years ago, the Euchambersia evolved venom more than a 100 million years before the very first snake was even born.”
What will we find next?Watch one of the most venomous creatures on earth today: