A baby snake that hatched 99 million years ago on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean was found encased in amber.
The snake, just 4 inches long, was discovered in a chunk of resin in what is now known as Myanmar. It was initially misidentified as a centipede and subsequently sold to a private collector, who had it analyzed by ancient reptile experts. After scanning the amber to create a 3D model of the skeleton, experts say that the specimen is undoubtedly a snake.
Unfortunately, the skull is missing — only a portion of the back half of the snake made it into the amber. The fossil, which is aged back to the Cretaceous period, contains only 97 tiny preserved vertebrae. Researchers believe they may have also found skin of an additional snake species in separate piece of amber, but results are still inconclusive.
Snake fossils are extremely rare; in fact, only about 15 such fossils have been found from this particular period. This specimen is the first snake ever to be found in amber.
The majority of amber pieces contain insects, but some fragments of birds and dinosaurs have been identified.
Researchers are hopeful that other chunks of amber may contain misidentified ancient snakes — and that perhaps they’re sitting in storage just waiting to be discovered.