Enormous snake in ancient India was longer than a school bus

Enormous snake in ancient India was longer than a school bus

Ancient Snake Discovery

Massive Ancient Snake Discovery in India

Paleontologists in India have unearthed fossilized vertebrae from a snake that slithered around the sub-continent about 47 million years ago and may have grown as long as nearly 50 feet. The newly discovered, extinct species is named Vasuki inidicus, after the mythical serpent coiled around the neck of the Hindu god Shiva, and is described for the first time in a study published April 18 in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Vasuki is an important piece of an ancient puzzle. It contributes to our understanding of this extinct group, and also to our understanding of large, apex, top-of-the-foodchain snakes in general,” says John Jacisin III, a paleontologist at the University of Texas at Austin who researches reptiles but was uninvolved in the new study. Beyond reptiles, the fossil find carries broader clues to India’s climate tens of millions of years ago.

Sunil Bajpai, co-author of the study and a vertebrate paleontologist at the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, first discovered the fossilized snake remains in 2005 at a coal mine in western India. Over the course of a slow and careful excavation, 27 vertebrates–all likely to be from the same individual–were uncovered.

By analyzing the size ratios of various parts of the vertebrae and the fossils unique shapes and protrusions, Bajpai and his co-researcher established the remains were that of a new species in the extinct family of Madtsoiidae, which were primitive snakes similar to boas and pythons.

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