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47-million-year-old python fossils discovered in Germany

December 16, 2020
The head and body of the Messel python are almost completely preserved. — courtesy Hessian State Museum Darmstadt
The head and body of the Messel python are almost completely preserved. — courtesy Hessian State Museum Darmstadt

FRANKFURT — Several skeletons of a python species, estimated to be about 47 million years old, were discovered in the Messel Pit, a World Heritage site in southern Germany, DPA cited the Senckenberg Nature Research Society as announcing on Wednesday.

The almost entirely preserved fossils measure about 1 meter each and are the oldest known finds of their kind.

The discovery led the joint-research team from the Frankfurt-based institute and the University of Sao Paulo to conclude that pythons might have originated in Europe.

"At the time of the Eocene, about 47 million years ago, these snakes were already present in Europe. Our analyses show that they also evolved here," said Frankfurt-based paleontologist Krister Smith.

The new python species has been named "Messelopython freyi" after the place where they were found, and after German palaeontologist Eberhard Frey, who is known worldwide for his precise studies on fossil reptiles.

With a length of up to 6 meters, pythons are among the largest snakes in the world today and live primarily in Africa, South and South-East Asia, and Australia.

The Messel pit was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List 25 years ago, considered "the richest site in the world for understanding the living environment of the Eocene."

The preserved finds pressed into oil shale show what the world was like millions of years ago in the then tropical region.

With several tens of thousands of fossils discovered until now, scientists can draw a relatively accurate picture of the living environment and climate at that time. — SPA


December 16, 2020
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