Palaeophis

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Palaeophis
Temporal range: Cretaceous - Eocene
Palaeophiidae - Palaeophis maghrebianus.JPG
Fossil vertebrae of Palaeophis maghrebianus from Khouribga (Morocco)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Infraorder: Booidea
Superfamily: Alethinophidia
Family: Palaeophiidae
Subfamily: Palaeopheinae
Genus: Palaeophis
Owen, 1841

Palaeophis ('ancient snake') is an extinct genus of marine snake belonging to the family Palaeophiidae.

Species within this genus lived from the Cretaceous period to the Eocene epoch, approximately from 70.6 to 33.9 million years ago.[1] Fossils of species winthin this genus have been found in England, France, Denmark,[2] Morocco[3] and Mali,.[4]

Species[edit]

Species within this genus include:[1]

  • Palaeophis africanus Andrews 1924
  • Palaeophis casei Holman 1982
  • Palaeophis colossaeus Rage 1983
  • Palaeophis ferganicus Averianov 1997
  • Palaeophis grandis Marsh 1869
  • Palaeophis halidanus Cope 1868
  • Palaeophis littoralis Cope 1847
  • Palaeophis maghrebianus Arambourg 1952
  • Palaeophis nessovi Averianov 1997
  • Palaeophis tamdy Averianov 1997
  • Palaeophis toliapicus Owen 1841
  • Palaeophis typhaeus Owen 1850
  • Palaeophis vastaniensis Bajpai & Head 2008
  • Palaeophis virginianus Lynn 1934

Description[edit]

Illustration of articulated vertebrae of P. toliapicus

These species varied broadly in size; Palaeophis casei is the smallest at 1.3 metres of length, while Palaeophis colossaeus, known from a single vertebra, is the largest at the estimated size limits for the genus at over 9 m (30 ft) in length,[4] making it one of the largest known snakes. However most species of the genus were not as big.[5][6]

Biology[edit]

Palaeophis, like most members of its clade, was a specialised aquatic animal, occurring mostly on marine sites, though at least some estuarine remains have also been found. Likely, individual species occupied a vast variety of ecological niches.

Studies on Palaeophis vertebrae show a high degree of vascularisation, suggesting that it had a considerably faster metabolism and growth rate than modern snakes. This may suggest that palaeophiids, like other marine reptiles such as mosasaurs, might had developed towards endothermy.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Fossilworks
  2. ^ Kristensen, H. V.; Cuny, G.; Rasmussen, A. R.; Madsen, H (2012). "Earliest record of the fossil snake Palaeophis from the Paleocene/Eocene boundary in Denmark". Bulletin de la Société Géologique de France 183 (6): 621–625. doi:10.2113/gssgfbull.183.6.621. 
  3. ^ Houssaye, A.; Rage, J.-C., Bardet, N., Vincent, P., Amaghzaz, M., Meslouh, S. (2013). "New highlights about the enigmatic marine snake Palaeophis maghrebianus (Palaeophiidae; Palaeophiinae) from the Ypresian (Lower Eocene) phosphates of Morocco". Palaeontology 56 (3): 447–651. doi:10.1111/pala.12008. 
  4. ^ a b Rage, J.-C. (1983). "Palaeophis colossaeus nov. sp. (le plus grand Seprent connu?) de l’Eocène du Mali et le problème du genre chez les Palaeopheinae". Comptes Rendu de l’Academie des Sciences, Paris 3 (296): 1741–1744. 
  5. ^ Holman, J. Alan 1982. Palaeophis casei, new species, a tiny palaeophid snake from the early Eocene of Mississippi. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 2, (2), 163-166. [1]
  6. ^ Rage, Jean-Claude et al. (2003). "Early Eocene snakes from Kutch, Western India, with a review of the Palaeophiidae" (PDF). Geodiversitas (India: Editions scientifiques du Muséum, Paris, FRANCE) 25 (4): 695–716. ISSN 1280-9659. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  7. ^ ALEXANDRA HOUSSAYE1, JEAN-CLAUDE RAGE, NATHALIE BARDET, PEGGY VINCENT, MBAREK AMAGHZAZ and SAID MESLOUH, New highlights about the enigmatic marine snake Palaeophis maghrebianus (Palaeophiidae; Palaeophiinae) from the Ypresian (Lower Eocene) phosphates of Morocco, Article first published online: 13 FEB 2013, DOI: 10.1111/pala.12008