No, it’s not the plot from The Land Before Time: Nightmare Fuel. Rather, it’s a 3.5m Cretaceous snake from India, now identified as Sanajeh indicus. A fossil of S. indicus has been found coiled in a dinosaur’s nest, indicating its likely prey. Unlike modern snakes it wasn’t able to detach its jaws to swallow large objects like eggs, but was plenty big enough to tackle newborn dinosaurs. Jason Head, paleontologist at the University of Toronto Mississauga said, “this is the first direct evidence of feeding behavior in a fossil primitive snake, and shows us that the ecology and early evolutionary history of snakes were much more complex than we would think just by looking at modern snakes today.”
The fossil was found in a titanosaur nest, and it’s thought that when the eggs hatched, the babies would disturb the soil, and attract the predators. These ones were evidently caught in a quick cataclysm that preserved the attack.
You just know a SyFy director is reading this news piece, rubbing his or her chin in evil glee, and thinking “indicus, huh?”
Published in PLos Biology (free access)
Sculpture by Tyler Keillor and original photography by Ximena Erickson; image modified by Bonnie Miljour