The giant snake that stalked the Earth
A recently discovered prehistoric monster snake provides answers about the past - and raises questions ...
A recently discovered prehistoric monster snake provides answers about the past - and raises questions for the future.
Around 58 million years ago, a monstrous snake slithered out of the swampy jungles of South America and began a reign of terror.
Weighing more than a tonne and measuring 14m (approximately 50ft) the giant reptile could swallow a whole crocodile without showing a bulge. But a few years ago, scientists never even knew it existed.
"Never in your wildest dreams do you expect to find a 14m boa constrictor. The biggest snake today is half that size," says Dr Carlos Jaramillo, a scientist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and part of the team that made the discovery.
'World of lost reptiles'
Thought to be a distant relative of the anaconda and boa constrictor, the snake - named Titanoboa - was not venomous. Instead, it crushed its prey with the constricting force of 400lbs per sq inch - the equivalent of lying under the weight of one and a half times the Brooklyn Bridge.
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Changing climates and changing continents are the fuel of evolution. But things that happen very quickly can result in the types of change we might not view very positively”
Jonathan Bloch University of Florida
The fossils were exposed by excavation at the ma##ive Cerrejon open-face coal mine in northern Colombia. In 2002, scientists had discovered at that site the remains of a tropical rainforest from the Palaeocene Epoch - perhaps the planet's first.
As well as fossilised leaves and plants, they unearthed reptiles so big they defied imagination.
"What we found was a giant world of lost reptiles - turtles the size of a kitchen table and the biggest crocodiles in the history of fossil records," says Jonathan Bloch, an expert in vertebrate evolution at the University of Florida.
They also found the vertebrae of a colossal snake.
"After the extinction of the dinosaurs, this animal, the Titanoboa, was the largest predator on the surface of the planet for at least 10 million years," says Dr Bloch. "This was a major animal in any sense of the imagination."
Search for skulls
But scientists needed the snake's skull to get a full picture of how it looked, what food it ate and how it might be related to modern species. Last year, a team set out to find it, with little expectation of success. Because the bones of a snake's skull are so fragile, few survive.
"Unlike our skulls, snake skulls aren't fused together. Instead they're connected with tissue," says Dr Jason Head, a snake specialist from the University of Nebraska.
"When the animal dies, the connective tissue decomposes and all the individual bones are generally dispersed. They're very thin and fragile too and often get destroyed. Because Titanoboa is so big and the skull bones are so large, it's one of the few snakes that do make it into the fossil record."
To their amazement, the team recovered the remains of three skulls from which the reptile could be accurately reconstructed for the first time.
From that, they were able to get a better sense of how Titanoboa lived and looked. A life-sized replica is now on display at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, and will begin a nationwide tour in 2013.
Aside from the excitement of discovering a new and enormous species of snake, the reptile can tell scientists a lot about the history of the Earth's climate - and offer a glimpse of the possible effects of global warming today.
Snakes are unable to regulate their own temperature and depend on external heat to survive.
"We think the Titanoboa became this large because it was much warmer on the equator after the dinosaurs died 60 million years ago," says Dr Bloch. "We think that's why reptiles in general were larger.
That ability to thrive in a warm climate could be relevant in the event that global temperatures rise according to the projections of climate scientists, Dr Bloch adds.
"It's evidence that ecosystems can thrive at temperatures of the levels that are being projected over the next one or two hundred years."
Return of Titanoboa?
But the climate changes that produced Titanoboa took millions of years. Scientists are less certain about the effects of sudden temperature change.
"Biology is amazingly adaptable. Changing climates and changing continents are the fuel of evolution. But things that happen very quickly can result in the types of change we might not view very positively," says Dr Bloch.
As well as being warmer, CO2 levels were also 50% higher during the period of the Cerrejon rainforest.
"One big lesson we are learning from the fossils in Cerrejon is that tropical plants and the ecosystem in general have the ability to cope with high temperatures and high levels of CO2, another major concern with the current trend of global warming," says Dr Jaramillo.
"Perhaps the plants and animals of the tropics today already have the genetic ability to cope with global warming."
Does that mean the Titanoboa could one day return?
"As the temperature increases, you have the probability they will come back," says Dr Jaramillo. "But it takes geological time to develop a new species. It could take a million years - but perhaps they will!"
BBC News - The giant snake that stalked the Earth
Titanoboa: New York's Grand Central Terminal Displays Model Of Biggest Snake Ever (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
|04-03-2012, 01:01 PM||away - #2|
I can't even imagine how !!ed up it was back in prehistoric times. Figured all you had to worry bout is big a## dinosaurs but apparently you had a bunch of these big a## mafugguhs slithering around too? Streets ain't safe!!!
Dope read though thats amazing
|04-03-2012, 01:16 PM||online - #3|
Man who u tellin...I be at the crib complainin about possums and spiders. No tellin what kinda big a## creatures ppl had to deal wit back then
|04-03-2012, 01:21 PM||away - #4|
|04-03-2012, 01:58 PM||away - #5|
|04-03-2012, 01:59 PM||away - #6|
is there a spider edition being almost the same size?
|04-03-2012, 02:03 PM||away - #7|
I was just at the smithsonian in DC this Weekend its crazy how big that snake was
|04-03-2012, 02:08 PM||away - #8|
|04-03-2012, 02:09 PM||away - #9|
guess I'm headed to the Smithsonian this weekend
|04-03-2012, 02:11 PM||away - #10|
|04-03-2012, 02:11 PM||away - #11|
oh hell naw
sharks and snakes are the things I dont !! with
and you trying to tell me there was a mother!!er that slitthered around jungles weighing more than ton
oh hell naw
swolling whole crocs
oh hell naw
|04-03-2012, 02:13 PM||away - #12|
re: giant spiders
book lungs and the exo skeleton don't really allow them to grow big. they would be crushed under their own weight.
i'll say this though. if spiders could have grown large enough to prey on humans, i'm not sure we would have progressed as quickly on an evolutionary scale. those !!ers would have owned us.
Last edited by Delbert Mengel; 04-03-2012 at 02:17 PM..
|04-03-2012, 02:26 PM||away - #13|
|04-03-2012, 02:31 PM||away - #14|
|04-03-2012, 02:42 PM||away - #15|
|04-03-2012, 02:47 PM||away - #16|
Historical testimony of giant snakes:
"I sprang for my rifle as the creature began to make it's way up the bank and smashed a .44 bullet into its spine. At once there was a flurry of foam and several heavy thumps against the boats keel, shaking us as though we had run on a snag. We stepped ashore and approached the creature with caution. As far as it was possible to measure, a length of 45 feet lay out of the water and 17 feet lay in the water, making it a total length of 62 feet. It's body was not thick, not more than 12 inches in diameter, but it had probably been long without food."
Colonel Percy Fawcett,Officer of the Royal Engineers -Amazon Diary.
"We saw the snake asleep in a large patch of gra##. We immediately opened fire upon it. It tried to make off all in convulsions but we caught up with it and finished it off. Only then did we realize how enormous it was, when we walked around the whole length of its body it seemed like it would never end. What struck me was its enormous head, a triangle about 24 inches by 20. We had no instruments to measure the beast, but we took an arms length of string and measured it about one meter by placing it on a man's shoulder and extending it to his fingertips. We measured the snake several times and each time we got a length of 25 strings. The creature was well over 23 meters (75 feet) long."
Bernard Huevelmans, the 'father of' Cryptozoology.
Encounter with a group of Frenchmen and Brazilians.
"The visible portion was at least 80 feet long and the body was as thick as an oil drum. It was throwing up a wake as large as a river.
Father Victor Heinz -whilst on the Rio Negro,Amazon River,1925.
|04-03-2012, 03:11 PM||away - #17|
!! could you imagine the land speed it would have? This !! would have beasted other life forms...we need that anaconda 5:Titanoboa
|04-03-2012, 03:39 PM||away - #18|
|04-03-2012, 08:48 PM||away - #19|
nicca you smokin rocks ..... I don't want !! to do with a German shepherd sized spider. Come outside and one of them !!s just chillin on your car . !! that !!
|04-03-2012, 09:52 PM||away - #20|
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