Gigantophis (South American Reptiles).


Gigantophis (Greek for "giant snake"); pronounced jih-GAN-toe-fiss


Woodlands of northern Africa and southern Asia

Historical Epoch:

Late Eocene (40-35 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 33 feet long and half a ton


Small animals

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large size; capacious jaws

About Gigantophis

Like many other creatures in the history of life on earth, Gigantophis had the misfortune of being the "biggest" of its kind until its fame was eclipsed by something even bigger. Measuring about 33 feet long from the tip of its head to the end of its tail and weighing up to half a ton, this prehistoric snake of late Eocene northern Africa (about 40 million years ago) ruled the proverbial swamp until the discovery of the much, much bigger Titanoboa (up to 50 feet long and one ton) in South America. To extrapolate from its habitat and the behavior of similar, modern, but much smaller snakes, paleontologists believe that Gigantophis may have preyed on mammalian megafauna, perhaps including the distant elephant ancestor Moeritherium.

Ever since its discovery in Algeria over a hundred years ago, Gigantophis had been represented in the fossil record by a single species, G. garstini. However, the identification in 2014 of a second Gigantophis specimen, in Pakistan, leaves open the possibility of another species being erected in the near future. This find also indicates that Gigantophis and "madtsoiid" snakes like it had a much wider distribution than previously believed, and may well have ranged across the expanse of Africa and Eurasia during the Eocene epoch. (As for Gigantophis' own ancestors, these smaller, mostly undiscovered fossil snakes lurk in the underbrush of the Paleocene epoch, the period of time just after the extinction of the dinosaurs).

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Strauss, Bob. "Gigantophis." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, Strauss, Bob. (2020, August 25). Gigantophis. Retrieved from Strauss, Bob. "Gigantophis." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).