Opening today: Snakes on a ‘Pod
March 2, 2010
This is so unspeakably cool. Today in PLoS Biology (yay, free reprints for everybody!), Wilson et al. (2010) describe a new snake, Sanajeh indicus, based on multiple specimens from multiple sauropod nests where they were apparently eating baby sauropods! This is sweet for loads of reasons. There aren’t that many well-documented cases of predation in the fossil record in the first place. Predation on dinosaurs by non-dinosaurs is especially cool–you may remember the announcement of Repenomamus by Hu et al. (2005), a giant (for its time and clade) badger-sized mammal from China that was found with a gut full of baby Psittacosaurus. And as Wilson et al. note, this is only the second secure association of sauropod bones with eggs; the other is the Auca Mahuevo site in Patagonia that produced the first definitive sauropod eggs and embryos. If we learn half as much about sauropod biology from these Indian nests as we have from the Patagonian ones, it’s going to be an exciting decade.
The best bit, though, is the window this gives us into Mesozoic ecosystems. Dinosaurs made lots of offspring, and sauropods seem to have been particularly R-selected. With loads of multiton animals producing zillions of defenseless babies for most of the Mesozoic, it would be weird if other critters, dinosaurian and otherwise, didn’t take advantage of that seasonally abundant food source. It’s great to get some direct evidence.
This is like a swamp full of radioactive awesome. Go roll around in it and let it mutate you.
- Yaoming Hu, Jin Meng, Yuanqing Wang, Chuankui Li. 2005. Large Mesozoic mammals fed on young dinosaurs. Nature 433: 149–152.
- Wilson JA, Mohabey DM, Peters SE, Head JJ. 2010. Predation upon hatchling dinosaurs by a new snake from the Late Cretaceous of India. PLoS Biol 8(3): e1000322. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000322
Addendum (from Mike)
Let’s not miss the opportunity to reproduce this classic, uh, life restoration, executed pre-emptively by William Stout decades before this fossil was even found! It’s from his 1981 book The Dinosaurs: a fantastic new view of a lost era.