The Gigantophis retained the title of largest known snake for more than one hundred years. The Gigantophis lived approximately 40 million years ago in the Late Eocene epoch, in the northern Sahara, where Egypt and Algeria are located in nowadays.
The Gigantophis Garstini was first described as a giant python-like snake by Charles W. Andrews in 1901, from fossils found in Al Fayum, in eastern Egypt.
To estimate the Gigantophis size Jason Head, of the Smithsonian Institution, compared the fossil vertebrae to those of some of the largest snakes living today. Originally its length was estimated at about 30 to 35 feet.
The gigantophis remains were found together with other marine vertebrates, including whales, sirens, marine turtles, crocodilians and even other large marine snakes.
In 1961 another scientist (Robert Hoffstetter) found more remains of Gigantophis in Dor-et-Talha in Libya, on a site located about 1500 km west of the original study area.
New Gigantophis fossils that were found in 2014 in Pakistan suggest that the broad distribution of the species extends from Africa, Middle East into South Asia.
The snake was named after Egyptian Under Secretary of State for Public Works, William Garstin. The species is known to scientists only from a small number of fossils, mostly vertebrae and partial jaws.
The Gigantophis garstini species is classified as a member of the madtsoiidae family. The Madtsoiidae a group which includes other prehistoric snakes like the smaller Madtsoia and Wonambi.
Like many other giant prehistoric snakes and today's giants like the green anaconda or the reticulated python, the Gigantophis was a powerful constrictor capable of squeezing the life out of its unfortunate prey.
It probably have preyed on basal proboscideans, pig-sized ancestors of modern elephants as well as ancient crocodilians.
Did You Know?
The Eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the largest of the 32 species of rattlesnakes recognized.