Weekly Scientific Read: Fossil Snake In A Dinosaur Nest

It’s been a few weeks since you last saw a Weekly Scientific Read, mainly due to the festivities towards the end of 2015 but I also took a break to wait for some cool new research to be published. I’ll kick off 2016 with a fascinating paper I came across over Christmas and yes you did catch the title of this blog post correctly. The remains of a new fossil snake from the Cretaceous period were found alongside and associated with a megaloolithid dinosaur egg nest in Romania. The evidence would suggest that the snake was buried at the same time as the nest. I know what you’re thinking but not all is what it would seem.

Fragmentary vertebrae still articulated from the holotype of Nidophis alongside a reconstruction (Venzcel et al., 2015)

Fragmentary vertebrae still articulated from the holotype of Nidophis alongside a reconstruction based on these bones  (Venzcel et al., 2015)

With this find, some interesting inferences can be made which makes things even more exciting! The snake (Nidophis insularis) was roughly 1m in length and the researchers were able to age the individual by counting the growth of the vertebrae, the snake was an adult. Using a whole range of other data ranging from palaeomagnetic evidence to stable isotope geochemistry, the team were also able to identify the sort of climate that Nidophis would have inhabited. This appears to have been a seasonally variable sub-tropical climate. Looking closer at the trunk vertebrae the species has been identified as a semi-fossorial snake that wouldn’t have been able to prey upon the eggs of dinosaurs. This makes things even more interesting in terms of trying to understand how the snake came to be associated so closely to the nest before burial. Was the snake attracted to the nest due to an abundance of prey or was it just passing through before it met it’s untimely end?


Venczel, M., Vasile, Ş., & Csiki-Sava, Z. (2015). A Late Cretaceous madtsoiid snake from Romania associated with a megaloolithid egg nest–Paleoecological inferences. Cretaceous Research, 55, 152-163.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are solely this author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wandering Herpetologist website.
Steven Allain

Author: Steven Allain

Steven Allain is from England and has been fascinated with amphibians and reptiles ever since he was a young boy. He is the current chairman of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Amphibian & Reptile Group (CPARG). Gotta question or comment for Steven? Email him at steven[at]wanderingherpetologist.com

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