green snake with yellow eyes
Care_SMC, via Flickr/CC BY ND 2.0

Scientists figured out what makes a snake grow so long, and it all comes down to one gene.

A new study shows that snakes are long because of a single overactive gene that continues to push embryonic development of the “trunk” of the snake for a significantly longer period than other animals. This overactive gene is a mutation that explains why our slithering friends became too long: The body continues to grow long after other sections of the snake.

The result is a long body and a very short tail. (yeah, the entire snake isn’t actually the tail; we’re learning a lot today).

The body of the snake is anatomically similar to the spinal cord in humans. This particular gene’s discovery has given scientists what could be the materials needed to learn how to make the spinal cord heal itself, or regenerate after injury. Meaning that snake genes might be beneficial to humans, even beyond the opportunity for lawyer jokes.

[H/T Telegraph]