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Nidophis (madtsoiid snake) found with dinosaur eggs in Romania



Ben Creisler
bcreisler@gmail.com


A new paper:


Márton Venczel, Ştefan Vasile & Zoltán Csiki-Sava (2015)
A Late Cretaceous madtsoiid snake from Romania associated with a
megaloolithid egg nest – Paleoecological inferences.
Cretaceous Research 55: 152-163
doi:10.1016/j.cretres.2015.02.009
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195667115000257

Highlights

Taphonomy of the Nidophis insularis type series shows it represents
one individual.
Average size of Nidophis insularis was about 1 m in length.
Age estimation of the type individual was possible using apophyseal
growth rings.
Although found in a dinosaur nest, Nidophis was clearly not a dinosaur
nest raider.
Bite mark on one vertebra suggests predation or scavenging on Nidophis.

Here we report on the taphonomy and paleoecological implications of
the first record of a small madtsoiid snake (Nidophis insularis)
closely associated with a megaloolithid dinosaur egg nest. Taphonomic
and sedimentologic evidence suggest that the snake was buried
autochthonously within or nearby the egg nest, with at least partially
articulated skeleton. Count of growth rings on the vertebral
zygapophyses indicates that the holotype of Nidophis belonged to an
adult individual approaching the limit of its maximum body size of
about 1 m length. The presence of layers of arrested growth on the
zygapophyses, together with other independent data (e.g.,
paleomagnetic data, sedimentology, paleosol development stage, stable
isotope geochemistry) indicates that Nidophis lived under a semi-arid,
seasonally variable subtropical climate, having alternative periods of
active feeding. The trunk vertebrae with relatively low neural spines
and without prezygapophyseal accessory processes indicate a relatively
heavy-bodied, slowly-moving animal, one that probably had a
semifossorial habit and was an active forager, but definitively not a
dinosaur nest raider as suggested for certain large madtsoiid snakes
(the Indian Sanajeh). Potential prey items, available around the
dinosaur nesting area, probably ranged from small squamate eggs to
various small vertebrates. Finally, one anterior trunk vertebra of the
holotype displays distinct bite marks left by a small-sized and
pointed-toothed predator, most probably a crocodyliform or a theropod,
thus documenting that madtsoiids were also preyed upon.