The ancient snake found in India could have exceeded the length of a school bus

WASHINGTON (AP) — An ancient giant snake in India may have been longer than a school bus and weighed a ton, researchers reported Thursday. Fossils found near a coal mine revealed a snake that stretched an estimated 36 feet (11 meters) to 50 feet (15 meters), comparable to the largest known snake at about 42 feet (13 meters) that lived in what is now Colombia. The largest living snake today is Asia’s reticulated python at 33 feet (10 meters). The newly discovered behemoth lived 47 million years ago in western India’s swampy evergreen forests and could have weighed up to 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms), researchers said in the journal Scientific Reports.

They named it Vasuki indicus after the mythical snake king Vasuki, associated with the Hindu deity Shiva. This giant snake wasn’t particularly fast but rather a slow-moving ambush predator that subdued its prey through constriction, according to Debajit Datta, a study co-author at the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee.

Fragments of the snake’s backbone were discovered in 2005 near Kutch, Gujarat, and more than 20 fossil vertebrae were compared to estimate the snake’s size. While it’s unclear what Vasuki ate, other fossils nearby suggest it lived alongside catfish, turtles, crocodiles, and primitive whales. The Titanoboa, another extinct giant snake discovered in Colombia, is estimated to have lived around 60 million years ago.

Both of these giant snakes lived during periods of warm global climates, indicating that large cold-blooded animals like snakes require higher temperatures to grow to such large sizes, according to Jason Head, a Cambridge University paleontologist not involved in the study. However, he mentioned that the current climate is warming too rapidly for snakes to evolve into giant sizes again.

While it’s theoretically possible for global warming to bring back giant-sized snakes, the pace of climate change is too fast for such evolution to occur, he added. The Associated Press Health and Science Department is responsible for all content and receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.



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