Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Fossil Snake from India Fed on Hatchling Dinosaurs

Predation upon Hatchling Dinosaurs by a New Snake from the Late Cretaceous of India. 2010. J. Wilson, et al. PLoS Biology

The snake Sanajeh indicus, n. gen. n. sp., in association with a partial clutch of three titanosaur eggs (oogenus Megaloolithus) and a titanosaur hatchling.
The remains of a nearly complete snake Sanajeh indicus were found preserved in the nest of a sauropod dinosaur in 67-million-year-old sediments from Gujarat, western India. The snake was coiled around a recently hatched egg adjacent to a hatchling sauropod. Remains of other snake individuals associated with egg clutches at the same site indicate that the newly described snake made its living feeding on young dinosaurs.

Working with the sediment-covered and inscrutable specimen in 1987, Mohabey recognized dinosaur eggshell and limb bones but was unable to fully interpret the specimen. In 2001, Wilson visited Mohabey at his office at the Geological Survey of India and was astonished when he examined the specimen.

"I saw the characteristic vertebral locking mechanism of snakes alongside dinosaur eggshell and larger bones, and I knew it was an extraordinary specimen---but I also knew we needed to develop it further," Wilson said.

The new snake, which was named Sanajeh indicus or "ancient-gaped one from the Indian subcontinent," because of its lizard-like gape, adds critical information that helps resolve the early diversification of snakes. Modern large-mouthed snakes are able to eat large prey because they have mobile skulls and wide gapes. Sanajeh bears only some of the traits of modern large-mouthed snakes and provides insight into how they evolved. link

Thanks Lisa!