The prehistoric era was home to some of the most fascinating and gigantic creatures, including the python-like Gigantophis garstini. This giant snake dwelled in what is now known as Egypt around 40 million years ago.
A discovery at Fayum in the Western Desert, which included parts of a spinal column and a jaw fragment, has shed light on the creature's immense size.
Due to its considerable length, the Gigantophis is the longest prehistoric snake, surpassing even modern-day giants like the reticulated python. While the retic holds the current record for the world's longest snake alive today, the prehistoric species was about 3.28 feet (1 meter) longer.
Vertebrate Paleontology and Estimated Lengths
Dr. Jason Head, a vertebrate paleontologist associated with the Smithsonian Institution, estimated the size of the serpent by comparing its fossilized vertebrae to those of the largest contemporary snakes.
This approach is a common practice in paleontology, where scientists use the known dimensions of living animals to make inferences about the size and characteristics of extinct species.
Native Range of Gigantophis
The broad distribution of Gigantophis remains in North Africa and South Asia suggests that the extinct snake had a much wider distribution than previously thought, perhaps encompassing other areas of Africa, the Middle East and possibly even further into Asia.
The finding suggests that the genus Gigantophis began diversifying earlier in the Eocene epoch.
This earlier diversification was inferred from fossils identified by Charles W. Andrews in 1901, discovered in Al Fayum, located in eastern Egypt. Notably, the Gigantophis' remains were found alongside other marine vertebrates, including whales, sirens, marine turtles, crocodilians and other large marine snakes, which were likely part of its diet.
Head speculates that it may have also preyed on large reptiles, like ancient crocodiles and Basal proboscideans, a group of primitive or early-stage Proboscidea order members. The giant constrictor was believed to be an aquatic snake that could hide underwater, lying in wait until prey approached.