Colossal Prehistoric Snake Discovered in India

Researchers uncover fossils of a massive 50-foot prehistoric snake, Vasuki indicus, that lived in India 47 million years ago, challenging previous notions about snake size and evolution.

Rafia Tasleem
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Colossal Prehistoric Snake Discovered in India

Colossal Prehistoric Snake Discovered in India

Researchers have unearthed the fossilized remains of a massive prehistoric snake, dubbed Vasuki indicus, that lived in what is now India around 47 million years ago. The snake's 27 vertebrae fossils suggest it was between 36 and 50 feet long, potentially making it one of the longest snakes to ever roam the Earth.

The fossils were discovered in 2005 near a coal mine in western India, but were initially mistaken for a crocodile. It wasn't until 2022 that researchers re-examined the fossils and identified them as belonging to a new species of giant snake. The snake was named Vasuki indicus after the mythical snake king Vasuki from Hindu mythology.

Based on the size of the preserved vertebrae, researchers estimate that Vasuki indicus weighed up to 2,200 pounds and was a slow-moving ambush predator that would subdue its prey through constriction. It was not venomous. The snake likely lived in a warm, tropical coastal marsh and swamp environment, and may have preyed on various animals such as fish, turtles, crocodilians, and even primitive whales found in the same fossil site.

Why this matters: The discovery of Vasuki indicus provides valuable insights into the diversity and evolution of prehistoric snakes. It challenges previous notions about the maximum size of snakes and sheds light on the environmental conditions that allowed these giant reptiles to thrive.

While the exact size of Vasuki indicus is uncertain due to the incomplete nature of the remains, the researchers note that it would have rivaled the extinct Titanoboa, the largest known snake species, in size. Both of these massive snakes lived during periods of exceptionally warm global climates, which may have allowed them to grow to such immense proportions. However, the current rapid pace of global warming is unlikely to lead to the return of such giant snakes, as the climate is changing too quickly for snakes to evolve to those sizes again, according to the researchers.

Key Takeaways

  • Fossilized remains of massive prehistoric snake Vasuki indicus found in India.
  • Vasuki indicus estimated to be 36-50 feet long, weighing up to 1,000 kg.
  • Vasuki indicus was a slow-moving ambush predator, not venomous.
  • Discovery challenges previous notions about maximum snake size and evolution.
  • Rapid global warming unlikely to lead to return of such giant snakes.