Possibly the Oldest Snake Fossil Found to Date

A team of researchers from the Geological Survey of India working in western India have discovered a beautifully preserved fossilised snake.  This specimen is perhaps the earliest fossil evidence of this specialised group of animals within the order Squamata.

The fossil was recovered from the Lameta Formation of the Kheda district in Gujarat.  The sediments represent upper Cretaceous deposits traversing the Campanian and Maastrichtian stages. The snake has been dated to 70 mya.

Gujarat is the most western state of India, it borders Pakistan and many expeditions have been hampered because of the tensions between these two countries.  The geology of this district has yet to be fully explored, so there may be other amazing discoveries about life in the late Cretaceous to be made.

The snake was found in association with a sauropod nest and some hatchlings,  in itself an important find.  Scientists are debating whether the snake was in the process of raiding the nest when it and the nest were buried.  Certainly, many species of snake today prey on eggs and the young of other animals, could the rise of the snakes raiding nests have been another factor leading to the demise of the dinosaurs as their dynasty came to an end 65 mya.  Whether the snake had a forked tongue and a Jacobsons organ in the roof of its mouth to help it detect particles and make sense of its environment is not known at this stage.  The jaws show the adaptations for swallowing large prey, but a sauropod egg would still have been a bit of a mouthful even for the most persistent of serpents.

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