Snakes’ (legs) on the wane

Photo by Dave Martill, University of Portsmouth.

Head over to the website of the journal Nature for the scoop on this awesome new fossil of Tetrapodophis amplectus, a weird creature that lived about 120 million years ago, was obviously a snake, and yet had these four, tiny, perfect little legs:

Photo by Dave Martill, University of Portsmouth.

Photo by Dave Martill, University of Portsmouth.

Awwwwwww! And you haven’t even heard the best part. The species’ Latin name — I kid you not — “loosely translates as ‘four-legged hugging snake.'”

All together now: Awwwwwww!

There are a few different ways the createtariat might respond to news like this. They could treat it the same way they treat most scientific work and advancement — that is, completely ignore it. They could try to argue that this discovery, of an animal bearing bizarre, transitional features that are exactly what the theory of evolution predicts some animals would have borne in precisely this time period, is, well, not that, because, you know, reasons.

They could say it’s not a real transitional fossil … somehow, or more likely, that it just creates more gaps in the fossil record. Ray Comfort will probably say, “It’s still a snake.”

I would love to see a post from Answers in Genesis’ Bodie Hodge saying this find definitively proves that snakes originally had legs but lost them as a result of the punishment meted out to the serpent in Genesis 3, which may have been a real serpent possessed by the devil or may have been the devil in the form of a serpent, who knows, but we do know for sure that it definitely was not a symbol or literary device. No way.

But Bodie is probably too busy distorting scripture to bother with a trifling scientific discovery.

All I can say is: I. WANT. ONE. Seriously, like the second scientists figure out how to make the Jurassic Park cloning process happen, they need to start working on resurrecting one of these little guys for me. And I will name him Mr. Huggles, and have him wear a funny hat, and teach him to ride a unicycle, and he will be the greatest pet ever and my bestest friend for all time.

I mean, come on. Look at this thing! Freaking hugging snake! Just look at it snuggling with its little friend here. He’s even giving his neck a widdle nuzzle-wuzzle.

They call it  the "hugging snake." Awwww. (Artist's rendering by Julius T. Cstonyi.)

Awwwwwww! Dat’s a good boy, Mr. Huggles! (Artist’s rendering by Julius T. Cstonyi.)

Tyler Francke is founder of God of Evolution and author of Reoriented. He can be reached at

  • Corey

    Oh, we’ll get an article within the next few weeks saying it’s evidence that snakes once had legs and that this backs up the Genesis account.

    • That’s what I’m hoping for, but since they assert most fossils were created during the flood, then they would have to explain how this particular specimen managed to live for several years after the curse. Of course, they can just say the originally created animals lived a really long time like the early people did.

      When your only loyalty is to a pre-existing theological construct, and you have no real need to conform to the scientific or biblical evidence, or logic or common sense, you can usually dance around most issues pretty easily.

      • Corey

        Well, given my time as a YEC, yes that is the explanation that will be used.
        Their stance is that genetics were “very good”, ie flawless, in the beginning and that allowed not only such quick adaptation but extended life spans. So the statement will be that this was an early serpent that had survived since the time of the garden and that the snakes on the ark were the legless sort.

        • That’s really interesting. Obviously, a related issue here is the supposed “changes” YECs claim a lot of animals underwent in terms of the sharp teeth and claws used by predators and the various defense mechanisms used by prey animals.

          I know, proponents say some of these features may have had “different uses” in the original creation (sharks’ rows and rows of razor-sharp teeth may have been perfect for carving up summer squash, e.g.). But still, there must have been some changes, since as it stands today, there are “obligate carnivores,” like snakes and big cats, which could not survive on meatless diets.

          But still, whether the changes were actual changes or some pre-existing feature being co-opted by “the curse,” my understanding was that they were still more or less immediate, and affected the animals actually alive at the time. For this fossilized creature to be a pre-Fall snake, it would mean these changes affected only the offspring. Does that really make sense in a YEC paradigm?

          Of course, this is all purely academic. When what you’re talking about has no basis in objective reality, and resides entirely in the imagination, I suppose anything can make sense.

    • summers-lad

      Is there any evidence of vocal chords?

  • Seth

    You have their usual tactics described spot on. One of my favorite examples is a tape I used to have of an 80’s creationist conference. There were two talks on Archeopteryx. One covered the silly claim from Hoyle and others that the specimen is of a dinosaur and the feathers were forgeries: The other basically said the specimen was ‘just a bird’. These were both received very favorably, and the fact that they directly contradicted each other seemed to cause no one any concern. So long as the pesky transitional fossil was addressed to their satisfaction, all was good with the world.

    • That really is quite funny. And goes to show that their ultimate end is nothing other than “disproving” evolution. Not truth, not clarity, not even consistency. Just, trying to disprove evolution, at any and all costs.

  • Alan Christensen

    Regarding the Genesis 3 punishment angle, it’s quite clear from the fossil that snakes lost their legs gradually and not in one fell swoop. Those legs are clearly pretty useless for locomotion.

    • Maybe that was their original design!! Did you ever think of that, Alan??!! Why are you so dead set against God making a hugging snake anyway????!!!!!

      • Alan Christensen

        I’m not, as long as the snake doesn’t hug me. A handshake will do.

    • But seriously though, the Natural Historian link Ashley posted elsewhere on this thread makes a point similar to yours.

  • ashleyhr
  • Jake Hughes

    I will love him, and pet him, and stroke him, and call him George!

  • ashleyhr

    PS More complaining from a bigoted Christian who thinks if it does not confirm scripture then it is ‘not’ science nor scientific. I have found that you cannot reason with people like him (they always end up silently censoring their critics who HAVE done their homework as my second link highlights):
    The universe is vastly ancient. Risner and co CANNOT cope with that.

    • Risner is a joke. He accuses me of a strawman argument, before repeatedly asserting that I hold science in higher regard than scripture and interpret the latter through the lens of the former. He also subtly insinuates that I am a liberal universalist, even though he admits he has “no idea” what I actually believe.

      He spent the entire blog post supposedly “responding” to what, like three sentences I wrote? Sheesh, I guess this will be a long series. Someone really likes the sound of their own voice.

      Also, he wrote this sentence: “The author, Tyler Francke, writes for God of Evolution and seemingly attempts to insinuate that being a Bible-believing Christian means you’re dishonest, uneducated, and unthinking.” Barf.

      • ashleyhr

        Anyone reading the exchanges here might conclude from Risner that ALL I offer is ‘childish tantrums’. A total LIE concocted by Risner, by means in part of his manipulative and dishonest censorship of my recent posts in response:

        Likewise anyone reading the exchanges with Wolcott here would conclude that although I refused (quite correctly) to ‘retract’ anything I wrote, as he demanded, he nevertheless ‘won’ the argument because I then went ‘silent’ (I did NOT I was silently censored):

        My responses to Risner and Wolcott – which they CANNOT deal with so DARE not publish – can be read here (respectively dated 23 July and 18 July):

        I told Risner (among other things): “I suggest that you and Charlie should ask yourselves how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of your repeated accusations, frequent condescending ‘superior’ tone, and highly dogmatic claims and whether such posts would be likely to lead a person to Christ (or back to Christ).
        For instance, you demand of me: “when you say confirmed do you mean “prove?””. Yet YECs insist that when THEY use the word ‘confirm’ they DON’T mean prove. So why should I respond to your attempted cross-examination suggesting that I really meant ‘prove’ not ‘confirm’? I used the word ‘confirmed’ CONSCIOUSLY, CAREFULLY and DELIBERATELY. Please stop trying to tell me that I ‘really’ meant, or meant to write, something DIFFERENT to what I actually wrote. Please stop MANIPULATING.
        “You’ve been given many warnings. I feel like a bad parent for not following through.” The problem is all yours. My – much delayed by you – post fully met the stated rules for commenting on this site.
        And the rest of your rant is despicable. I know WHY. You cannot deal with my points – so you are searching hard for an ‘excuse’ to permanently ban me. YECs ALWAYS behave like that when under pressure – their position is based on dogma in spite of known facts and when their claims are clearly shown to be mere faith and anti-scientific they become angry and harden their hearts against their critics. Your rant also ignores the most important word near the end of my post dated 2 July. The word ‘IF’. The person having a ‘tantrum’ at the time of your post dated 17 July was NOT me.
        Since because of my previous experience here I do not trust you or Wolcott, because you routinely either CENSOR me or DELAY publishing my posts for up to TWO weeks, I have SAVED this post. I intend to always do so in future as well.
        I have no respect for you or Wolcott. None. I have respect for Christians who do not behave as you – and other YECs – do.
        I will continue to expose your manipulative behaviour at the BCSE community forum or by email.”

        I told Wolcott: “Thanks for the lecture but I’m sorry your reply is pathetic. My comment which you claim ‘misrepresented’ your words never mentioned ‘worldviews’ (and was NOT summarising anything you said either but making an observation in response). But you appear to NOW be falsely suggesting that I do not know the difference between ‘science’ and a ‘worldview’. But you CANNOT prove this from my words above – otherwise you would have already done so. The reason being that I DO know the difference, and thus have NOT confused or ‘equivocated’ the two. And I did NOT misrepresent you, even accidentally. And am still retracting nothing.
        I rather suspect you are trying to annoy me in order to get rid of me.
        You HAVE said that Biologos have “demonstrated a total lack of true understanding of both science [and Scripture]”. And you HAVE said of Biologos that “I’ve read a number of their things. It’s pretty bad on both aspects. When you try to please both crowds of opposing worldviews, you will get both sides painfully wrong.” The ‘aspects’ in question being their positions on science and doctrine.
        As I have already explained in this thread. The two worldviews being whether you start with scripture when doing science (or theology) or whether you start with the evidence and naturalism when doing science (or perhaps when interpreting parts of the Bible such as the opening chapters of Genesis)”.

        • ashleyhr

          I am flagging these comments to Risner and Wolcott – so that they can defend their behaviour here should they think that they can do so.

  • Pft. Obviously shopped.

    • Whatever. What’s obvious is that Satan took the legs off of a lizard fossil and glued them on here in an effort to fool the faithful.

      • Maybe God just created the world with the -appearance- of snakes with legs.

        What’s sort of depressing is that we can rustle together about a dozen joke reasons the YECs could offer for why this fossil proves nothing. But they’re not jokes, are they? They’re actually bullet points in an upcoming AiG article that we’ll have to climb over to have discussions with on-the-fence YECers.

        • Yeah. All this would be more funny if there weren’t so much truth in it.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    They could try to argue that this discovery, of an animal bearing bizarre, transitional features that are exactly what the theory of evolution predicts some animals would have borne in precisely this time period, is, well, not that, because, you know, reasons.

    Shouldn’t that be “.because BIBLE!”?

    …the serpent in Genesis 3, which may have been a real serpent possessed by the devil or may have been the devil in the form of a serpent, who knows, but we do know for sure that it definitely was not a symbol or literary device. No way.

    Do we even know if he spoke with the voice of John DeLancie?

  • ashleyhr

    This has just appeared, which also (see second link) flags in its final section an earlier YEC reaction:
    “If you’re a creationist tempted to think that Tetrapodophis represents something out of Genesis 3, don’t go there. The fossil records an animal that was alive at the time of the Flood, possibly thousands of years later than Eden. We know that the present world is impoverished of many well-designed creatures that existed in the antediluvian world. Suffice it to say this is one of them.”
    So the Genesis 3 snake was something different to THIS creature (if it was a snake) because THIS creature only evolved or was ‘created’ shortly before the Genesis flood (and then went suddenly extinct either in the flood or afterwards)?
    WHERE DOES THE BIBLE REMOTELY SUGGEST ANY OF THAT? Young earth creationism is more and more of an anti-scientific CULT rather than Bible exegesis.
    Perhaps CMI should ask CREV what on earth he was talking about? And then explain it to THEIR readers.

    • ashleyhr

      I have sent a message to CMI in the UK (they will of course NEVER publish it and NEVER reply to me either):
      See my comment just NOW here about where your article quotes from CREV:
      YECs making stuff up again that is NOT in the Bible or indeed is contradicted by it ie the flood was NOT an extinction event for any land creature.

    • Not only does the Bible not say that, it expressly speaks against that, because Noah was commanded to take two of each kind of animal on the ark prior to the flood, so they could repopulate it afterward. It makes no sense whatsoever to read from that that “many well-designed creatures” did not survive the flood. If you “believe the Bible,” and interpret it literally, then all of them did. Their “interpretation” is in actuality a rejection of what the Bible clearly says.

      • ashleyhr

        Last night I submitted a comment as follows under the latest blog by Naturalis Historia on artifacts, the last two paras of which touch on a similar issue about YECs sometimes being unbiblical (the comment still awaits moderation but it read as follows):

        PS Talking of the science hater Mortenson:
        “On the contrary, Noah’s Flood is the key to explaining most of the geological record and as such it washes away millions of years.”
        Funny how the wider universe is provably BILLIONS of years old, Terry. Something YOU don’t bother to mention.

        The article attempts to argue that conglomerates could be biblically young … His main strategy appears to be to say that Montgomery is wrong because his “thinking is controlled by naturalistic uniformitarian assumptions”. Mortenson also discusses – in a not very accessible fashion for the layman – the Shinarump Conglomerate (see here: And he also claims that the Genesis flood (IF it really happened) is ‘capable’. “Some of the sediments formed early in the Flood year would be eroded in the recessional stage and deposited again elsewhere, thus providing the slightly older conglomerates within newer ones via successive catastrophic episodes over the course of only a few months or at most a few years, not millions of years.
        Heat and pressure certainly can speed up the process of turning wet conglomerate sediments into solid conglomerate rock. Far more important, however, is the cementing agent in solution in the sediment that “binds the sediment into a rock.””

        I’m no geologist but I am un-persuaded that this is a scientifically plausible scenario or that it is MORE convincing than the claims of Montgomery.

        Mortenson also ignores this comment in the Montgomery article that he is attempting to critique:
        “Interestingly, one can challenge Flood Geology on biblical grounds. What did Noah do in the biblical story? He saved two of every living thing. So consider the case of fossils, which creationists attribute to the flood. What you find in the rocks is that more than 99% of all species entombed in the rock record are extinct. This simple fact offers a stark contrast to what you would expect to find based on a literal reading of the biblical story.”

        God sends global flood but saves land-based creatures from extinction on a floating ark (even though YECs insist only representative ‘kinds’ were on board). Only for 99 per cent of species then to go extinct ‘within the past 5,000 years’ despite God’s plan being for animals to ‘multiply’. Not only utter garbage but unbiblical TOO.

        • Yeah, I saw this article you’re talking about. Mortenson’s a hack.