Australia's snakes have Asian origins: study

Source: Xinhua| 2017-11-02 10:12:48|Editor: Song Lifang
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SYDNEY, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) -- Most ancestors of Australian lizards and snakes, including some of the world's deadliest species, migrated from Asia to the southern continent as early as 30 million years ago, according to latest research.

About 85 percent of the more than 1,000 snake and lizard species in Australia descended from creatures that floated across the ocean, most likely on driftwood, Dr Paul Oliver, the lead researcher of the study under the Australian National University, was quoted on Thursday by the university's Research School of Biology as saying.

"Around 30 million years ago it appears that the world changed, and subsequently there was an influx of lizard and snakes into Australia," said Dr Oliver. The migration was likely spurred by Australia's gradual split from Antarctica.

"We think this is linked to how Australia's rapid movement north, by continental movement standards, has changed ocean currents and global climates."

The research, which included animal data modelling and simulations, helps explain how Australia contains about 11 percent of the world's 6,300 reptile species, the highest for any country, the school posted on its website. Those include the venomous death adder, black tiger and red-bellied black snakes.

The reptiles' migration to Australia was clustered in time, said Oliver.

"The influx of lizards and snakes into Australia corresponds with a time when fossil evidence suggests animal and plant communities underwent major changes across the world," he said.

"The movement of Australia may have been a key driver of these global changes."

The school's findings have been published in the Nature Ecology and Evolution scientific journal.