IIT Roorkee team finds giant ancient snake fossil in Gujarat

Roorkee, April 19 (IANS): A team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee, on Friday announced the discovery of an ancient snake species, believed to be one of the largest ever to have roamed the Earth around 47 million years ago.

The snake fossil, named Vasuki Indicus, after Vasuki, the mythical snake often depicted around the neck of the Hindu god Shiva, inhabited the region of present-day Gujarat during the Middle Eocene period.

The 11 to 15-metre-long snake belonged to the now-extinct Madtsoiidae snake family but represented a unique lineage from India, said the team of researchers led by Sunil Bajpai and postdoctoral fellow Debajit Datta.

The researchers said that the shape and size of these vertebrae suggest that Vasuki Indicus had a broad and cylindrical body, hinting at a robust and powerful build, and was a stealthy predator.

“This discovery is significant not only for understanding the ancient ecosystems of India but also for unravelling the evolutionary history of snakes on the Indian subcontinent,” said Sunil Bajpai, Department of Earth Sciences, IIT Roorkee.

The team found the ancient giant’s fossils in the Panandhro Lignite Mine in Kutch, Gujarat. Among these fossils, 27 vertebrae were exceptionally well-preserved, with some even found connected or articulated, like jigsaw puzzle pieces.

“Vasuki Indicus isn’t just any snake we’re talking about; its size rivals that of Titanoboa, a massive snake that once roamed the Earth and holds the title of the longest snake ever known,” the team said.

“It underscores the importance of preserving our natural history and highlights the role of research in unveiling the mysteries of our past,” Prof Sunil added.


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