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A South American snake lineage from the Eocene Greenhouse of North America and a reappraisal of the fossil record of “anilioid” snakes

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“Anilioidea” is a likely paraphyletic assemblage of pipe snakes that includes extant Aniliidae from equatorial South America, Uropeltoidea from South and Southeast Asia, and a fossil record that consists primarily of isolated precloacal vertebrae ranging from the earliest Late Cretaceous and includes geographic distributions in North America, South America, Europe, and Africa. Articulated precloacal vertebrae from the middle Eocene Bridger Formation of Wyoming, attributed to Borealoilysia nov. gen., represent an unambiguous North American aniliid record and prompts a reconsideration of described pipe snakes and their resultant biogeographic histories. On the basis of vertebral apomorphies, the vast majority of reported fossils cannot be assigned to “Anilioidea”. Instead, most records represent stem taxa and macrostomatans erroneously assigned to anilioids on the basis of generalized features associated with fossoriality. A revised fossil record demonstrates that the only extralimital distributions of fossil “anilioids” consist of the North American aniliid record, and there is no unambiguous fossil record of Old World taxa. The occurrence of aniliids in the mid-high latitudes of the late early Eocene of North America is consistent with histories of northward shifts in equatorial ecosystems during the early Paleogene Greenhouse.



Serpentes, Aniliidae, Pipe snake, Systematics, Eocene, North America

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Elsevier BV
Natural Environment Research Council (NE/S000739/1)
Natural Environmental Research Council