Titanoboa: Over 40ft Of Snake!

Weighing in at over 2,500lbs and achieving a length of over 40ft , this whopper of a boa constrictor-like snake named “Titanoboa” found in Colombia is without a doubt, the largest snake discovered to date!

Titanoboa (Titanoboa cerrejonensis) lived during the Paleocene Epoch, a 10-million-year period immediately following the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago … a mere 6 million years after the last Tyrannosaurus Rex roamed the Earth!

Not only is Titanoboa the largest snake ever known to have slithered across the planet, but it is also believed to be the largest non-marine vertebrate from the Paleocene Epoch as well!

Excavations in Colombia co-organized by both the  Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and the University of Florida’s Florida Museum of Natural History, unearthed this titanic boa fossil in February of 2009.

But how did they determine the actual size of the snake based on a few fossilized bones?

Scientists actually used the ratio between vertebral size and the length of snakes today to determine that this boa-like snake must have been approximately 42 feet in length and weighed in at over a ton.  The snake was so wide, it could have reached up to a person’s hips!  Scientists have classified the snake as a relative of modern day boa constrictors.

Let me put things into perspective by comparing Titanoboa to the largest snakes living today on the planet Earth:

  • Green anacondas (Eunectes murinus), the world’s heaviest snakes, typically weigh a mere 250kg (550lbs) in comparison!
  • Reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus), the world’s longest snakes, typically only reach up to 10m (32ft) in comparison!

“The discovery of Titanoboa challenges our understanding of past climates and environments, as well as the biological limitations on the evolution of giant snakes.” said Jason Head, research associate at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto Mississauga. “This shows how much more information about the history of Earth there is to glean from a resource like the reptile fossil record.

It is believed that Titanoboa spent a lot of time in the water, much like our modern day anacondas.  With a rather large appetite, scientists assume it would have regularly (and easily!) devoured alligators, crocodiles and large fish.

Scientists were able to determine that based on Titanoboa’s size, it actually lived in an environment where the average temperature was approximately 30-34 degrees Celsius.  Why? Simply because the size of snakes and other cold-blooded animals are dependent upon the ambient temperatures of where they live (ie they are ectothermic).  To put it in general terms, larger ectothermic animals today are found in the tropics where it is hottest, and smaller ectothermic animals are found farther away from the equator.

Fossil floras collected from the area where Titanoboa was discovered, show that the area was in fact a tropical rainforest. What is so fascinating about this? Scientists believe that it proves present day tropical rainforests could in fact continue to exist if the average yearly temperature was to increase, through global warming,  by 3-4 degrees Celsius!

By Candace, SaveTheReptiles.com

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About Candace M Hansen

Wildlife advocate, conservationist and environmentalist.
This entry was posted in Featured Articles, Snakes and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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