Scientists In India Unearth Fossils Of A Massive Prehistoric Snake That Was Longer Than A T. Rex

Published April 24, 2024
Updated April 26, 2024

Vasuki indicus may have reached lengths of up to 50 feet, rivaling the fearsome Titanoboa as the largest snake to ever exist.

Biggest Snake Ever

Indian Institute Of Technology RoorkeeAn artistic interpretation of Vasuki indicus.

Researchers examining fossilized vertebrae found in a western Indian mine in 2005 just determined that they once made up the spine of a massive prehistoric snake.

The creature, dubbed Vasuki indicus after a Hindu snake king, measured between 36 and 50 feet in length and weighed over a ton, making it one of the largest serpents to ever slither the Earth.

Researchers believe that the warm climate and ample resources found in the region 47 million years ago allowed it to grow to its monstrous size.

Discovering The Fossils In A Mine

Mine Where Fossils Were Found

Bajpai/D. Datta/P. VermaResearchers discovered the fossils at a coal mine in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

In 2005, Sunil Bajpai from the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee discovered fragments of a backbone from a huge, ancient creature at a mine in western India.

At first, the paleontologist and his team believed that it belonged to a large, crocodile-like creature. This was their theory until 2023, when researchers removed sediment from the fossilized vertebrae and discovered that they “were looking at the remains of an exceptionally large snake,” Bajpai and his co-author, Debajit Datta, told CNN.

“Upon this realization, we were elated and hugely excited, given the size of the specimens. We were delighted and enthralled by the fact that we were looking at the remains of a behemoth, one of the largest snakes that ever lived,” the researchers told All That’s Interesting in an email.

In total, the team unearthed 27 vertebrae β€” some of which were still connected β€” that belonged to a fully-grown animal.

Researchers decided on the name Vasuki indicus, inspired by “the mythical snake king Vasuki, who wraps around the neck of the Hindu deity Shiva,” Datta told the Associated Press.

In total, the snake likely measured between 36 and 50 feet long and weighed up to 2,200 pounds, according to the researchers’ newly-published study in Scientific Reports. However, as scientists do not have a complete skeleton, the measurements are purely estimates.

Regardless of its exact size, Vasuki certainly was an impressive snake that many creatures in prehistoric India would have feared.

The Impressive Characteristics Of ‘Vasuki Indicus’

Vasuki Indicus Vertebrae

Bajpai/D. Datta/P. VermaThe vertebrae of Vasuki indicus.

Given the size of Vasuki, it’s unlikely that the snake was a very swift predator. Researchers believe that it preferred to spend its time on the ground rather than in water or in trees. It would have strangled its prey, similar to an anaconda, rather than strike.

“Considering its large size, Vasuki was a slow-moving ambush predator that would subdue its prey through constriction,” Datta told the Associated Press.

Researchers are not confident about the creature’s diet, but they did find catfish, turtles, crocodilians, and primitive whales within the same fossil layer that may have served as its food source.

Coupled with its hearty diet, the warm climate of prehistoric western India allowed the cold-blooded Vasuki indicus to grow to its immense size.

“[It] thrived during a warm geological interval with average temperatures estimated at 82.4 degrees,” the study explained.

“Higher ambient temperatures would have increased the internal body temperature and metabolic rate of Vasuki which in turn would have allowed it to grow so large,” Bajpai and Datta explained to CNN.

Researchers believe that Vasuki indicus may have been even larger than the current record holder, Titanoboa, a prehistoric snake from modern-day Colombia that grew up to 50 feet long and weighed as much as 2,500 pounds, but more research must be done before arriving at any decisive conclusion.

After reading about Vasuki indicus, dive into the story of 11 of Earth’s most unbelievable prehistoric animals. Then, explore Snake Island, one of the most terrifying places in the world.

Amber Morgan
Amber Morgan is an Editorial Fellow for All That's Interesting. She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in political science, history, and Russian. Previously, she worked as a content creator for America House Kyiv, a Ukrainian organization focused on inspiring and engaging youth through cultural exchanges.
Cara Johnson
A writer and editor based in Charleston, South Carolina and an assistant editor at All That's Interesting, Cara Johnson holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Washington & Lee University and an M.A. in English from College of Charleston and has written for various publications in her six-year career.
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Morgan, Amber. "Scientists In India Unearth Fossils Of A Massive Prehistoric Snake That Was Longer Than A T. Rex.", April 24, 2024, Accessed May 23, 2024.