VOA Learning English

Ancient Snake Believed to Be Longer Than School Bus

VOA Learning English • voa
April 21, 2024 3 minSource

An ancient giant snake in India may have been longer than a school bus and weighed up to a metric ton, researchers reported Thursday.

Ancient remains of the snake were found near a coal mine in the western state of Gujarat. Researchers say it stretched an estimated 11 meters to 15 meters. It is comparable to the largest known snake at about 13 meters. That snake existed in what is now Colombia.

The largest living snake is Asia's reticulated python at 10 meters.

The newly discovered snake lived 47 million years ago in western India’s damp evergreen forests. It could have weighed up to 1,000 kilograms, researchers said in the journal Scientific Reports .

The researchers gave it the name Vasuki indicus. It is named after “the mythical snake king Vasuki, who wraps around the neck of the Hindu deity Shiva,” said study co-writer Debajit Datta of the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee.

The ancient snake was too big for quick attacks.

“Considering its large size, Vasuki was a slow-moving ambush ,” Datta said. In hunting for food, the snake would wrap its body around a target in a crushing hold.

Parts of the snake's backbone were discovered in 2005 by study co-writer Sunil Bajpai, who is based at the same institute as Datta. The researchers compared more than 20 fossil backbones to skeletons of living snakes to estimate size.

It is not clear exactly what Vasuki ate. But other fossils found nearby suggest the snake lived in swampy areas alongside catfish, turtles, crocodiles and early whales. These animals may have served as food for Vasuki.

The other extinct giant snake, Titanoboa, was discovered in Colombia. It is estimated to have lived around 60 million years ago.

Both snakes lived during exceptionally warm climate periods, said Cambridge University fossil scientist, Jason Head, who was not involved in the study. Snakes are cold-blooded animals, he noted. They would require higher temperatures to grow large.

So does that mean that global warming could bring back huge snakes?

In theory, it is possible, Head said. But it is not likely. The climate is now warming too quickly for snakes to evolve to such large sizes, the scientist said.

I’m Dan Novak.

Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press.

Words in This Story

myth — n. an idea or story that is believed by many people but that is not true

deity — n. a god or goddess

ambush — n. an act of hiding, waiting for others to appear, and then suddenly attacking them

swamp — n. land that is always wet and often partly covered with water

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