Fossils unearthed in India’s Gujaret Province reveal the extraordinary scene: An 11.5-foot (3.5 meter) serpent, coiled in a dinosaur’s nest and surrounded by eggs, prepares to strike a dinosaur hatchling. At that instant, a mudflow kills predator and prey, preserving their 67-million-year-old confrontation for the ages.
National Geographic’s Committee for Research and Exploration helped fund a newly-published report on the fossils in the journal PLoS Biology by University of Michigan paleontologist Jeffrey Wilson, along with co-authors at the Geological Survey of India, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Toronto.
“It’s actually one of the very few examples that we have of anything other than a dinosaur eating a dinosaur,” said Wilson, who claims that the find provides the first conclusive evidence that snakes sometimes consumed young dinosaurs. (To say nothing of bolstering the hypothesis that, even 60-plus million years ago, there was no such thing as a free lunch.)
Top to bottom: Life-sized reproduction of the moment before fossil preservation by Tyler Keillor, photographed by Ximena Erickson and modified by Bonnie Miljour; photo and interpretive map of fossils, including snake, hatchling, and three eggs, from Wilson et. al. 2010 article in PLoS Biology; photo of Jeffrey Wilson recording the location of snake fossils by Monica Wilson