German scientists discovered the oldest known fossils of a python species , some 47 million years old, in the “Grube Messel” fossil deposit. The age of the snake was estimated by researchers at the Senckenberg Society for Nature Research in Frankfurt and the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.
The Senckenberg Society indicated in a paper that this finding of the fossilized skeleton almost one meter long, and practically completely preserved, allows to suppose the origin of the giant snakes in Europe.
Unlike today, he noted, the ancient python lived in the same ecosystem with its anatomically very similar relative, the boa. Therefore, he asserted, it is necessary to reflect on the thesis that both families of snakes competed with each other .
“In Eocene times, or about 47 million years ago, these snakes already existed in Europe. Our analyzes show that they also developed here,” said Krister Smith, a paleontologist from Frankfurt.
This new type of python was called “Messelopython freyi”, according to the place of the find and the paleontologist Eberhard Frey of the State Museum of Natural Sciences of Karlsruhe.
Not coincidentally, Frey is nicknamed “Dino” and is known worldwide for the thoroughness of his studies on fossil reptiles. The Senckenberg Society stated that this name is intended to honor his achievements in the field of paleontology.
Pythons, which currently grow up to six meters long, are among the largest snakes in the world, living mainly in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, as well as Australia.
The ” Grube Messel “, an area called “Window to Prehistory” by the German Unesco Commission, has been a World Heritage Site for 25 years.
Finds embedded and preserved in oil shale show what the world looked like millions of years ago in the then tropical region.
With tens of thousands of fossil finds found so far, scientists can draw a relatively accurate picture of life and climate back then.