A Contribution to the Origin and Early Evolution of Snakes

The Linnean Society of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BF, United Kingdom
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Organiser: events@linnean.org
0207 434 4479 ext 211
Registration: Open

DAY MEETING Monday 24 June 2019

Anilius Scytale Snake
© Gabriela Bittencourt Silva

Snakes are a major clade of vertebrates, comprising > 3,700 extant species found on all major continents except Antarctica. They exhibit a wide range of body-form and ecological diversity including fully fossorial, arboreal and marine forms, and species feeding on social insects to large mammals using macrostomy, constriction and envenomation. Although unarguably squamates, snakes are phenotypically strikingly different from their extant lizard relatives, and thus their origins and early diversification have long enthused and challenged evolutionary biologists.

The origin and early evolution of snakes is a broadly interdisciplinary topic for which experts in palaeontology, ecology, physiology, phylogenetics and molecular developmental biology have made important contributions. Within the last 20 years there has been a surge of interest, partly as a result of new fossil material and new techniques in molecular and systematic biology, and this has attracted new researchers to the field. Despite this, several major controversies remain, such that the topic seems wholly appropriate for a dedicated meeting in order to summarise and discuss knowledge, approaches, data and debates.

The title of the meeting is in reference to G.L. Underwood’s classic and highly influential 1967 book A contribution to the classification of snakes.

Speakers and provisional topics include:

Susan EVANS (UCL, UK) and Roger BENSON (University of Oxford, UK). Jurassic lizards and snake origins.

Jason HEAD (University of Cambridge, UK). Snakes and stratigraphy.

Hussam ZAHER (Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil). Mesozoic snake issues.

Johannes MÜLLER (Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany). Body elongation in squamates.

Sara RUANE (Rutgers State University, USA) and Jeff STREICHER (NHM, UK). Conflicting phylogenetic signals.

Kartik SUNAGAR (Indian Institute of Sciences, India). Venoms.

Leonardo OLIVEIRA (Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil). Cephalic glands.

David CUNDALL (Lehigh University, USA), Harry GREENE (Cornell University, USA) and Fran IRISH (Moravian College, USA). Feeding strategies and mechanisms.

David GOWER (NHM, UK). Eyes and vision.

Giovanna MONTINGELLI (Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil). Hemipenes.

HONGYU Yi (Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China). Inner ears.

Martin IVANOV (Masaryk University, Brno Czech Republic). Paleogene and Neogene Eurasian snakes.

Krister SMITH (Seckenberg Research Institute, Germany). Booids.

Agustin SCANFERLA (Instituto de Geociencias de Noroeste Argentino). Eocene snakes.

Bruno AUGUSTA (Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil), Michael POLCYN (Southern Methodist University, USA) & Louis JACOBS (Southern Methodist University, USA). Mosasaurs and snake origins.

Open contributions:

Depending on numbers, the meeting might include poster displays of related research material within coffee and lunch breaks. Please contact the organisers if you are interested in presenting a poster.


Dr David GOWER is Head of Vertebrates in the Department of Life Sciences at The Natural History Museum, London. He is a systematic and evolutionary biologist interested in limbless (and mostly fossorial) amphibians and reptiles.

Dr Hussam ZAHER is Curator of Herpetology and Paleontology at the Museum of Zoology of the University of São Paulo, Brazil. He is an evolutionary biologist interested in the evolution of snakes and their squamate affinities.

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A Contribution to the Origin and Early Evolution of Snakes - £10.00 - £15.00

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