Giant snake fossil unearthed: IIT Roorkee makes discovery in Gujarat

IIT Roorkee discovered an ancient species of giant snake fossil in Gujarat said to be the largest to have roamed on Earth

By Newsmeter Network  Published on  19 April 2024 9:35 AM GMT
Giant snake fossil unearthed: IIT Roorkee makes discovery in Gujarat

Hyderabad: Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee, discovered an ancient species of snake believed to be one of the largest ever to have roamed the Earth has been unveiled.

The discovery led by Prof Sunil Bajpai and post-doctoral fellow Debajit Datta is of a newly identified snake, named Vasuki Indicus, which inhabited the region of present-day Gujarat around 47 million years ago during the Middle Eocene period. It belonged to the now-extinct Madtsoiidae snake family but represented a unique lineage from India.

The discovery of Vasuki Indicus is truly astounding, said the team from IIT, Roorkee. “Imagine a snake that could have stretched out to be as long as a school bus, measuring between 11 to 15 metres!” was their statement. This discovery by Prof Sunil Bajpai and his team follows a recent wave of significant fossil findings in India.

‘Size rivals that of Titanoboa’

The researchers said that the ancient giant’s fossils were found 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.

When scientists looked at these vertebrae, they said they noticed something interesting about their shape and size. They suggested that Vasuki Indicus had a broad and cylindrical body, hinting at a robust and powerful build. “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,” they said.

History and mythology of Vasuki indicus

Now, how did Vasuki indicus live? Researchers believe it was a stealthy hunter. Like anacondas we see today, Vasuki indicus likely moved slowly and waited for the right moment to ambush its prey. Its large size would have made it a formidable predator in its ancient ecosystem.

Vasuki indicus is unique and named after Vasuki, the mythical snake often depicted around the neck of the Hindu god Shiva. This name not only reflects its Indian roots but also gives a nod to the region’s rich cultural heritage. The discovery of Vasuki indicus sheds new light on the biodiversity and evolution of snakes during the Eocene period. It also offers insights into the geographical spread of the madtsoiidae family, which existed for approximately 100 million years across Africa, Europe, and India.

Prof Sunil Bajpai, Department of Earth Sciences, IIT Roorkee, remarked, “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. It underscores the importance of preserving our natural history and highlights the role of research in unveiling the mysteries of our past.”

Appreciating the discovery, Prof KK Pant, Director of IIT Roorkee, said, “We are immensely proud of this remarkable discovery by Prof Sunil Bajpai and his team. The unveiling of Vasuki Indicus underscores IIT Roorkee’s commitment to advancing scientific knowledge and our relentless pursuit of excellence in research. Such discoveries enrich our understanding of our planet’s history and elevate IIT Roorkee’s stature on the global scientific stage.”

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