If you get queasy at a garter snake on your front porch, you wouldn’t have wanted to live 65 million years ago. Back then, snakes were a little bigger. One ancient snake, appropriately named Titanoboa, measured 48 feet long and weighed 2,500 pounds. The first fossils of Titanoboa cerrejonensiswere unearthed in a Colombian coal mine in 2004, and subsequent discoveries have been made and studied by Jason Head at the University of Toronto. Analysis of the jaw bones show that Titanoboa could crush its prey with a jaw force of 400 pounds per square inch. (Modern estimates of the bite of an anaconda top this, however, at 900 psi.) Titanoboa could open its jaw almost a full 180 degrees to envelop large prey, such as giant turtles or crocodiles; fossils of these prey species have been found alongside Titanoboa at excavation sites. Scientists believe Titanoboa, the longest snake ever to slither on this planet (mighty anaconda reaches only 30 feet long), must have lived in warm temperatures. Snakes, or any creature for that matter, can only grow to such lengths if they live in a relatively hot climate; it would require far too much energy to heat a body that large in a cold climate.
Now you too can meet Titanoboa. A life-size model of Titanoboa is on exhibit through January 2013 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Or if you can’t travel to Washington, DC, you can wait for it to slither its way to your hometown when the exhibition goes on tour next year.
Read more at usatoday.com.
Watch the Smithsonian Channel video.
Find the original article in a February 2009 issue of the journal Nature.