FOSSIL SNAKE ATE DINOSAUR BABIES

An article just published in PLoS Biology (open access) describes a fossil from Gujurat in India, from around 68 MY ago. Amazingly, the rock contains the remains of a 3.5 m long snake, coiled in a sauropod nest, complete with eggs and a sauropod nestling. On the basis of this fossil, and others found nearby, the authors (led by Jeffrey Wilson of the University of Michigan) conclude that the snake (never before described), Sanajeh indicus, preyed on newly-hatched dinosaurs. There’s a very cute reconstruction of the scene, in an accompanying (and very interesting) article by Michael Benton about the difficulties of reconstructing function and behaviour from fossils.

Figure 1. Fossil snake preserved within a sauropod dinosaur nesting ground. Beginning from the center of the lower portion of the photograph, the articulated skeleton of the snake Sanajeh indicus is coiled in a clockwise fashion around a crushed Megaloolithus egg (egg 3, at the junction of three blocks), with its skull resting on the topmost loop of the coil. The uncrushed Megaloolithus egg (egg 1) at right pertains to the same clutch, which would have contained six to 12 eggs. A second uncrushed Megaloolithus egg (egg 2) from the same clutch is still at the site. At lower right are the front quarters of a titanosaur hatchling, including elements of the thorax, shoulder girdle, and forelimb preserved in anatomical articulation. The titanosaur hatchling was approximately 0.5 m long, or one-seventh the length of Sanajeh (3.5 m long). No other sauropod bones were found at the site. Scale bar equals 5 cm.

Interpretive map of blocks shown in Figure 1.

Here’s the reconstruction, sculpture by Tyler Keillor and original photography by Ximena Erickson; image modified by Bonnie Miljour. (NB we’re looking at the scene from the other side of the images above).

The scales and patterning of the snake's skin is based on modern macrostomatan snakes, relatives of the fossil form. The hatchling dinosaur is reconstructed from known skeletal materials, but its color is conjectural. The eggs are based directly on the fossils. Taken from PLoS Biology.

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One response to “FOSSIL SNAKE ATE DINOSAUR BABIES

  1. Pingback: Fossil snake ate baby dinosaurs! « Why Evolution Is True

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