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Gigantic Prehistoric Snake Fossil Unearthed In Indian Mine

Photo courtesy: AP/The Guardian

Fossilized vertebrae discovered in a lignite mine in western India belong to one of the largest snakes ever known, estimated to have been up to 15 metres long – surpassing even the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex in length, The Guardian reported.

Scientists have recovered 27 vertebrae from the snake, named Vasuki indicus, with some still in their original positions. The researchers believe Vasuki would have resembled a large python and was non-venomous.

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The mine where the fossil was found is located in Panandhro, Gujarat, and Vasuki is thought to have been a slow-moving ambush predator, similar to anacondas and pythons, living in marshy swamps near the coast when global temperatures were higher than today.

Due to the incomplete nature of the fossil, Vasuki's length is estimated to be between 11 and 15 metres, weighing around 1 tonne. Vasuki is named after the snake king associated with the Hindu deity Shiva.

Comparisons have been drawn between Vasuki and another huge prehistoric snake called Titanoboa, discovered in Colombia in 2009. While Titanoboa is estimated to have been slightly larger, the researchers cannot determine if Vasuki was more massive or slender.

Vasuki belonged to the madtsoiidae snake family, which appeared around 90 million years ago and went extinct about 12,000 years ago. These snakes spread from India through southern Eurasia and into North Africa after the Indian subcontinent collided with Eurasia about 50 million years ago.

The researchers are uncertain about Vasuki's diet but suggest it could have included crocodilians, based on other fossils found in the area. Vasuki's discovery sheds light on the diversity and size of snakes during the late dinosaur age and early Cenozoic era.

"Snakes are amazing creatures that often leave us stunned because of their size, agility, and deadliness," said lead researcher Debajit Datta. "But snakes perhaps attack people out of fear rather than with an intent to attack. I believe snakes, like most animals, are peaceful creatures and an important component of our ecosystem."

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