In the rainforest of the Philippines, scientists are digging a small track for termite snakes – a reptile of the Shadow lizards family.
Around the track is a series of high-speed cameras to observe the movements of groups of organisms, in order to study strange phenomena occurring on the bodies of small animals. In the lizards, there exist individuals whose legs have disappeared over a million-year period of evolution, giving them a snake-like appearance; That’s why we also call them termite snakes. However, there are the ancestors of the termite snake that abandoned their legs and regrown. They break the rules we set for the evolution of organisms: once a complex part (like a limb) is lost, evolution won’t give them back.
Brachymeles boulengeri has large, even 5 toes.
After studying termite snakes, the scientists wrote a report showing that individuals with limbs move faster and dig the soil more easily. The period of time that the Philippines termite snake dissipates and regains spending is consistent with climate changes in local history. As the climate gets more arid, the limb disappears and when wet returns, the limb reappears on the lizard’s body. This shows that when the evolutionary pressure is great enough, an organism can reproduce the limb – the part of the ancestors they had found entangled in and left long ago.
On land, many legless creatures live in arid, sandy environments like deserts. “For decades, even centuries, many people believe that snake-like creatures are adapted to a sneaking lifestyle.“, Professor of biology Philip Bergmann, author of the new study, said.
Yet in the Asian jungle, termite snakes have and do not live in the same humid tropical environment.
Brachymeles bicolandia has very small limbs and very small fingers. They look more like snakes than lizards.
To see how termite snakes move through these habitats, the researchers captured 147 individuals from 13 different species. Some have no limbs, some have tiny limbs and a few have distinct legs and feet. On the small-scale racetrack, scientists encourage termite snakes to move on the ground. The data captured by the camera will become valuable research material.
After analysis, they discovered a fact that did not seem to need research and could also deduce: the termite snakes race more efficiently than those without or with small legs; moving and digging are both easier with large feet. However, those “infinite” animals still find their way to live in the jungle: like snakes, they quietly crawl for food, not relying on their high speed of movement.
Compiling data from the local climate as well as the evolutionary path of termite snakes, scientists discovered an interesting pattern. About 60 million years ago, when the termite snake’s feet began to disappear, the climate was much drier. About 20 million years ago, some individuals regained their legs when it was wet and raining more.
“It seems that the climate situation in the past is consistent with the hypotheses we propose”Said Professor Bergmann. It seems that in a wet age, feet offer the advantages that termites need for survival.
Brachymeles boulengeri has a set of … moderate legs.
In the words of Professor Bergmann, think “once the complex is lost, the organism cannot get it back“Still makes sense. According to the theory of evolution, once the genes involved in the limb-making process are no longer in the use of organisms, they run the risk of having a random mutation and permanent failure. However, new research shows that there are genes that remain dormant in the body, if the conditions are right, they will work again.
“The natural selection process has to be very vigorous [sinh vật] to maintain these genes”Said Professor Bergmann. “So they can reactivate the gene when needed“.