Feb
05
2009

Fossils of a gigantic prehistoric snake as long as a school bus were uncovered recently in a South American coal mine

Titanoboa cerrejonensis lived in what used to be a tropical environment along a seacoast with brackish waters and a diverse flora and fauna. That former lush world is now an open-pit coal mine in Cerrojon in northern Colombia. Because of its huge size, scientists speculate that the average temperature during the cold-blooded Titanoboa’s reign would have had to been hotter than previously thought – at least 6 to 8 degrees warmer than it is today.

Paleontologist Jonathan Bloch of the University of Florida was the lead author of the paper describing the snake that appears in the recent issue of the journal Nature.

The skeletons of eight individuals were collected alongside the remains of a giant turtle and a crocodile ancestor, more than likely the snakes’ last meal.

Generally a snake can consume something about as big as itself. This means Titanoboa - which weighed in at about one-and-a-quarter tons - could have devoured a whole cow if it were living today. But fortunately it lived about 60 million years ago, just after the dinosaurs went extinct.

From the looks of this monstrosity I’d say that’s lucky for the dinosaurs.

LINKS
Audio interview with paleontologist Jonathan Bloch
LA Times story
Story at Scientificblogging.com (with some nice photos)

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