50-Foot-Long Extinct Snake Found in India

Researchers uncover fossils of a massive 50-foot-long extinct snake, Vasuki indicus, in India, shedding light on the region's prehistoric biodiversity and the evolution of giant reptiles.

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Rafia Tasleem
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50-Foot-Long Extinct Snake Found in India

50-Foot-Long Extinct Snake Found in India

Researchers have found the fossilized vertebrae of a massive extinct snake, named Vasuki indicus, in western India. The snake, believed to have lived around 47 million years ago, is estimated to have been between 36 and 50 feet long, making it one of the largest snakes ever found.

The well-preserved vertebrae were analyzed by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, who identified the specimen as belonging to the Madtsoiidae family of ancient reptiles. The fossils were initially unearthed in 2005 in the Panandhro Lignite Mine in the Kutch region of Gujarat, but were only recently identified as a new snake species.

Why this matters: The discovery of Vasuki indicus provides valuable insights into the prehistoric biodiversity of the Indian subcontinent and sheds light on the evolutionary history of snakes in the region. As one of the largest snakes found, it highlights the incredible size that some ancient reptiles could attain.

The researchers estimate that Vasuki indicus weighed up to 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms) and was comparable in size to Titanoboa, the largest known snake that lived around 60 million years ago in what is now Colombia. The shape and size of the vertebrae suggest Vasuki indicus had a broad and cylindrical body, indicating a robust and powerful build.

Vasuki indicus was likely a slow-moving ambush predator that would have subdued its prey through constriction, similar to modern-day large pythons. While the exact prey of Vasuki is unknown, it likely included crocodilians and primitive whales found in the same area, based on other fossils discovered in the region.

The genus Vasuki is an extinct species of madtsoiid snake from the Middle Eocene Naredi Formation of India. The Madtsoiidae family was widespread during the Eocene epoch, approximately 56 to 34 million years ago, before going extinct around 12,000 years ago.

The discovery of Vasuki indicus is significant for understanding the ancient ecosystems of India and the evolutionary history of snakes on the Indian subcontinent. The researchers compare the size of Vasuki indicus to that of Titanoboa, underscoring the importance of preserving natural history and the role of research in unveiling the mysteries of the past.

Key Takeaways

  • Fossil of massive extinct snake, Vasuki indicus, found in India
  • Estimated to be 36-50 ft long, one of the largest snakes ever
  • Belonged to Madtsoiidae family, lived ~47 million years ago
  • Likely a slow-moving ambush predator, preying on crocodilians and whales
  • Discovery provides insights into India's prehistoric biodiversity and snake evolution