Swiss Journal of Geosciences

, Volume 109, Issue 1, pp 103–116 | Cite as

New material of Laophis crotaloides, an enigmatic giant snake from Greece, with an overview of the largest fossil European vipers

  • Georgios L. GeorgalisEmail author
  • Zbigniew Szyndlar
  • Benjamin P. Kear
  • Massimo Delfino


Laophis crotaloides was described by Richard Owen as a new and very large fossil viperid snake species from Greece. The type material is apparently lost and the taxon was mostly neglected for more than a century. We here describe a new partial viperid vertebra, collected from the same locality and of equivalent size to the type material. This vertebra indicates that at least one of the three morphological characters that could be used to diagnose L. crotaloides is probably an artifact of the lithographer who prepared the illustration supporting the original description. A revised diagnosis of L. crotaloides is provided on the basis of the new specimen. Despite the fragmentary nature of the new vertebra, it confirms the validity of L. crotaloides, although its exact relationships within Viperidae remain unknown. The new find supports the presence of a large viperid snake in the early Pliocene of northern Greece, adding further data to the diversity of giant vipers from Europe.


Serpentes Viperids Neogene Greece Gigantism 



Wilma Wessels and Hans de Bruijn (University of Utrecht) are thanked for the long term loan of the material and for having provided information about its collection. Marco Pavia (University of Torino) took the photo of the new Laophis crotaloides vertebra. Sandra Chapman (Natural History Museum, London) kindly checked the catalogues and the collection of the Natural History Museum. Walter Joyce (University of Fribourg), Dimitris Kostopoulos (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), George Koufos (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), Petros Lymberakis (Natural History Museum of Crete, Herakleion) and John Murphy (The Field Museum, Chicago) gave significant help with the literature and provided valuable comments. We also thank our editor Daniel Marty, and our reviewers Jean-Claude Rage, Jim Mead and one anonymous reviewer for providing important comments that enhanced the quality of this paper. Project supported by Fondi di Ateneo (ex 60 %) 2013–2014 dell’Università di Torino and Generalitat de Catalunya (2014 SGR 416 GRC).


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Copyright information

© Swiss Geological Society 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Georgios L. Georgalis
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Zbigniew Szyndlar
    • 3
  • Benjamin P. Kear
    • 4
    • 5
  • Massimo Delfino
    • 2
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of GeosciencesUniversity of FribourgFribourgSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of TorinoTurinItaly
  3. 3.Institute of Systematics and Evolution of AnimalsPolish Academy of SciencesKrakowPoland
  4. 4.Museum of EvolutionUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  5. 5.Palaeobiology Programme, Department of Earth SciencesUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  6. 6.Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Edifici ICTA-ICPBarcelonaSpain

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