Slithering Forests

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India’s prehistoric forests were home to a massive, extinct snake species that scientists believe was one of the largest to have ever existed, Newsweek reported.

In a new study, a research team uncovered the fossilized remains of Vasuki indicus in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

The team found 27 vertebrae of this snake, each part measuring between 1.5 and 2.5 inches in length. Using this data, they estimated that the reptile was 36 to 50 feet long. It is believed to have lived around 47 million years ago.

In comparison, two of the longest snakes alive today, the Burmese python and the reticulated python, can grow up to 19 feet and 32 feet, respectively.

V.indicus was a member of the Madtsoiidae family, an ancient lineage of snakes that lived for about 100 million years. It was named after the Vasuki, the mythical snake depicted around the neck of the Hindu god Shiva.

Judging by its size, the researchers believe that it was a bit smaller than another extinct snake, Titanoboa, which is the longest snake to have ever lived.

Its great size most likely meant that V. indicus was slow-moving and ambushed its prey like the modern-day anaconda. It also gives researchers clues about the climate during its lifetime.

“The large size of Vasuki suggests that the tropics were comparatively warmer than at present,” noted co-author Debajit Datta. Previous studies “have shown a correlation between increase in ambient temperature and body size of poikilotherms (e.g., snakes).”

Datta and his colleagues theorized that the cooling climate and hunting by early humans contributed to the creature’s disappearance.

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