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Largest-ever snake fossil found in western India » Science News

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Largest-ever snake fossil found in western India » Science News

A fossil of a brand new species of ancient snake has been discovered in India, and it may have been one of the largest snakes to ever exist. Scientists estimate that Vasuki indicus was up to 15 meters long and weighed a ton.

The ancient species, Vasuki indicus, is believed to have lived about 47 million years ago and measured between 10 and 15 m in length, according to a new paper published in the journal Scientific Reports. In comparison, the largest modern snakes are the Burmese python and the reticulated python, which can grow to 5m and 9m respectively. The fossil was discovered in the Panandhro lignite mine in the Indian state of Gujarat, right on the border with Pakistan. The snake is thought to belong to the Madtsoiidae family, an ancient species of snake that lived for approximately 100 million years, between the late Cretaceous and late Pleistocene periods. “The most important outcome of our study is the identification of this exceptionally large snake which not only adds to the existing knowledge of madtsoiid snakes but also adds to the known diversity of Cenozoic snakes of India,” the author said of the study Debajit Datta, a paleontologist. at the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee. “Vasuki’s large size suggests that the tropics were relatively warmer than today. This is because previous studies have shown a correlation between increasing ambient temperature and the body size of poikilotherms (e.g. snakes). The internal body temperature of these animals varies with the temperature of their environment.” The researchers suggest that Vasuki indicus belonged to a group of large madtsoids that first evolved on the Indian subcontinent and dispersed across southern Europe to Africa during the Eocene epoch, between 56 and 34 million years old does. “Our study also showed that these snakes moved from India to North Africa via southern Eurasia after the Indian subcontinent collided with Asia about 50 million years ago,” Datta said.

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With a maximum length of 15m, the Vasuki indicus can be as large as the Titanoboa, the longest snake that ever lived. “We formulated allometric equations equating the length of the body with the transverse width of the vertebrae. Data from a variety of existing (living) snakes were used to formulate these equations,” Datta said. “Our data suggests that Vasuki was only slightly smaller in length than Titanoboa. However, we cannot completely rule out the possibility that Vasuki was larger than Titanoboa, because the vertebrae in our collection may not be from the larger Vasuki individual.” The Titanoboa was a huge snake that lived about 58-60 million years ago during the Paleocene, immediately after the extinction of the dinosaurs. The first Titanoboa fossils were discovered in 2009 in the Cerrejón coal mines in La Guajira, Colombia. The warm climate of the time, with temperatures significantly higher than today, was crucial for the cold-blooded Titanoboa to maintain its enormous body size. Vasuki indicus, named after Vasuki, the mythical serpent depicted around the neck of the Hindu god Shiva, is thought to have been a slow-moving beast that ambushed its prey instead of stalking them, similar to how anacondas hunt today . “Despite uncertainties associated with Vasuki’s locomotor mechanism, it was perhaps too large to be an active forager and was more likely an ambush predator that subdued its prey through constriction, similar to modern anacondas and large-bodied pythonids,” they the researchers wrote in the paper. This snake and others like it became extinct long ago, probably due to the influence of ancient humans or climate change. “Changes in climatic conditions, which could lead to a decrease in global temperatures, and the resulting changes in the ecosystem, have played an important role in the extinction of these snakes. Excessive hunting by early humans was perhaps another reason for the extinction of these snakes,” Datta said.

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