Meet Euchambersia mirabilis - the oldest known venomous animal ever discovered

in #science4 years ago (edited)

There's plenty of things out there in the world that will mess you up if they bite you. Spiders, insects, Congressmen - the list seems exhaustive.

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I will destroy everything you love! And Harrison Ford. Fuck that guy. Source

The worst of them are vipers, cobras, and other venomous snakes - those slithery little bastards just need to give you the kiss of death and you're flopping around on the floor, foaming at the mouth and turning interesting shades of green while your blood turns to gelato. Even though not all snakes are venomous, we caution our kids from a young age to leave all snakes alone, just to be on the safe side - nobody wants to mistake a coral snake for a king snake and get a fatal surprise, after all.

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Yellow on red, you'll be dead, homie. Source

So venomous = snake for most of us. It's just ingrained in our social DNA. Hooded cobras reared up and weaving back and forth, rattlers poised to strike - whatever the image is, it's universal for stay the fuck away. That's why I was so interested the other day to learn that the first venomous animal that ever evolved on our planet wasn't a snake at all.

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Hey, what's up? Source

Meet Euchambersia mirabilis, recently identified as being a venomous reptile living around 260 million years in the past. This dog-like little dude was found to have had depressions in its skull known as fossa, typically seen in the skulls of modern venomous snakes, which would have held its venom glands.

Euchamberia pre-dates the oldest known proto-snake ancestor by a cool 100 million years. Not only that, but the venomous little lizard dog even predates dinosaurs. Its venom delivery method is awfully primitive compared to the modern venomous snake - a series of grooves and canals ran through the jaw of the animal, culminating in a groove on the outside of its large canine teeth. The venom just flowed freely into its mouth through this groove - and into whatever Euchamberia sunk its teeth into. Crude, but definitely effective.

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I don't know, I think he's kinda cute. Source

There's something even more interesting about Euchambersia, though, especially in light of its venomous nature. You'd think that the lizard would be related to the snake, but it's not - Euchambersia is a theraspid, a type of creature that lived during the Late Permian - and is an ancestor of mammals, not snakes.

That's right - venomous bites evolved first in proto-mammals. Theraspida and Reptilia are two completely different classes of animals, and Euchambersia's status as an ancient theraspid that just cements its reputation as the first known venomous animal ever.

Imagine if evolution took a different turn. If Euchambersia DNA would have survived to the present day, would humans be going around biting people we didn't like? Maybe snakes would have learned to be scared of us!


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I almost wanted to give it a hug... ;)

Isn't he kinda cuddly looking? Like a big dumb venomous cuddle lizard.

What is sure is that at least people will let me pass on the street :)

This makes perfect sense seeing as how there are still a couple venomous mammals around today!

Amazing the way evolution works! I love it.

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