Massive Prehistoric Snake Discovery Unearthed in India: A Breakthrough in Paleontology

Posted by

A gigantic prehistoric snake, longer than a school bus, once roamed what is now India around 47 million years ago, recent studies suggest.

Related posts

This extinct snake might have been one of the largest ever, overshadowing today’s anacondas and pythons, which can grow up to about 6 meters (20 feet). Named Vasuki indicus after the mythical serpent that adorns Lord Shiva’s neck and the country where it was found, this massive creature was likely a slow-moving, ambush predator that killed its prey by constriction.

Published on Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, the study was conducted by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee in Uttarakhand. They analyzed 27 fossilized vertebrae, some still interconnected, that were discovered in 2005 in a coal mine in Gujarat, western India.

Initially, the researchers believed the bones were from an ancient crocodile-like animal. However, during the initial phase of their study in 2023, when the sediment was cleaned from the fossils, they realized they were examining the remains of an extraordinarily large snake, the authors noted.

The vertebrae seemed to come from a mature snake, the study indicated.

“There are several possible explanations for its enormous size, ranging from a favorable environment rich in food to an absence of natural predators,” coauthors Debajit Datta, a postdoctoral fellow, and Sunil Bajpai, a professor of paleontology, explained in a joint email.

They also suggested that warmer climatic conditions than those of today might have contributed to its size.

Based on the dimensions of the preserved vertebrae, the researchers estimated the snake’s length at between 10.9 meters (36 feet) and 15.2 meters (50 feet), depending on the method of calculation used, describing it as broad and cylindrical in shape.

Debajit and Bajpai believe the snake inhabited land rather than water, unlike anacondas. However, due to its size, it likely did not dwell in trees.

The authors advised that the estimates of the snake’s body length should be approached with caution since they did not have a complete skeleton to study. Nonetheless, they mentioned that this snake could have rivaled the largest known snake species, the extinct Titanoboa, in size.

Titanoboa, identified from fossils found in Colombia, is thought to have weighed 1,140 kilograms (2,500 pounds) and measured 13 meters (42.7 feet) from nose to tail tip.

Being cold-blooded, snakes rely on environmental heat for survival, with their size dependent on the warmth of their climate.

“Their internal body temperature changes with the ambient temperature,” the authors explained. “Thus, higher ambient temperatures would have raised Vasuki’s internal body temperature and metabolic rate, enabling it to grow so large.”

The researchers inferred from the size and metabolism of current snakes and existing temperatures that Vasuki lived in a warm, tropical climate, averaging 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit).

Datta and Bajpai noted that Vasuki resided in a coastal marsh and swamp environment.

“It’s not exactly clear what Vasuki’s diet consisted of,” they stated. “Fossils found in the same rock layers as Vasuki include ray fish, bony fish (like catfish), turtles, crocodilians, and even primitive whales, which Vasuki might have fed on.”

Share this:
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments