The fossil contains a juvenile specimen of the snake Palaeopython fischeri and its prey. The arrow points to the tip of the snout of the lizard inside the snake.
Forty-eight million years ago, an iguana relative living in what’s now Germany scarfed down an insect with a shimmering exoskeleton. Soon thereafter the lizard’s luck changed—when a juvenile snake gulped it down headfirst.
Despite the specimen’s novelty, it’s not the first vertebrate fossil to show three levels of a food chain at once. In 2008, researchers led by the University of Vienna’s Jürgen Kriwet described the fossil of a shark that gobbled up an amphibian with a spiny fish in its stomach.
That fossil, more than 250 million years old, even suggests that the amphibian had been digesting the fish for quite some time before becoming a meal itself. (Find out more about what was on the menu more than 250 million years ago.)
“Finding gut contents provides a direct view million years back on who was eating whom,” Kriwet wrote in an email. “But normally, these records only cover two trophic levels. Finding a fossil preserved as gut content that itself still contains remains of its last meal provides even deeper insights.”