Titanoboa – Monster Snake
Titanoboa – Monster Snake
Titanoboa – Millions of years after the fall of the Dinosaurs lived a species of snake that is unimaginable, unbelievable, and truly mind-blowing.
60-58 millions years ago in the swampy jungles of Colombia, lived Titanoboa (meaning Titanic Boa): a massive 48 foot long, 2,500 pound snake. Disturbing isn’t it?
Titanoboa‘s size could be attributed to the climate it lived in. Warmer climates usually meant more vegetation, which resulted in prey that often grew bigger than most that lived in cooler conditions.
This colossal snake looked something like a modern-day boa constrictor, but acted more like today’s Amazon-based anaconda. It was a slithery swamp dweller and a tremendous predator, able to eat any animal that it hunted. The diameter of its body would be close to being as high as a man’s waist.
In this swampy jungle of an oasis, life was surprisingly large due to the heavy non stop rain fall, bountiful vegetation and life in the area. Deep water from rivers flowing snaked around palm trees, hardwoods and occasional ridges/hills of earth.
The river basin in which Titanoboa fed, held turtles with shells twice the size of manhole covers and crocodiles – at least three different species – at more than a dozen feet long. Also living at that time were 7 foot long lungfish, two to three times the size of their Amazon cousins of this day.
And for the sake of size comparison: Titanoboa – Human – 40 Foot Bus
While at first thought to have been an apex predator of the Paleocene ecosystem in which it lived, evidence has pointed to the genus being dominantly piscivorous; a trait exclusive to Titanoboa among all boids. The size of the Titanoboa has also presented signs regarding the earth’s climate during its existence; because snakes are ectothermic, the discovery shows that the tropics, the Titanoboa’s habitat, must have also been warmer compared to earlier thought , averaging about 32°C (90°F). The warmer climate of the Earth at the time of Titanoboa allowed cold-blooded snakes to grow to much larger sizes than modern snakes. These days, larger ectothermic animals are found in the tropics, where it is hottest, and smaller ones are discovered farther from the equator.
However, various other researchers disagree with the above climate estimation. To cite an example, a 2009 study in the journal Nature applying the mathematical model used in the above study to an ancient lizard fossil from temperate Australia predicts that lizards currently living in tropical regions should be capable of reaching 10–14 m (32.8–45.9 ft), which is obviously not the case. In another critique published in the same journal, Mark Denny, a specialist in biomechanics, noted that the snake was so large and was producing so much metabolic heat that the ambient temperature must have been four to six degrees cooler than the current estimate, or the snake would have overheated.
By comparing the sizes and shapes of its fossilized vertebrae to those of extant snakes , researchers estimated that the largest individuals of Titanoboa found had a total length around 12 .8 m (42 ft) and weighed about 1,135 kg (2,500 lb).
In 2009, the fossils of 28 individuals of Titanoboa snakes were discovered in the Cerrejón Formation of the coal mines of Cerrejón in La Guajira, Colombia. Before this discovery, very few fossils of Paleocene-epoch vertebrates had previously been found in the ancient tropical conditions of South America. The Titanoboa snake was discovered on an expedition by a team of international scientists led by Jonathan Bloch, a University of Florida vertebrate paleontologist, and Carlos Jaramillo, a paleobotanist from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.