Scientists have found a 60-million-year-old fossil of the world’s largest snake, a 13-meter (40-foot), one-tonne behemoth dubbed Titanoboa, in a coal mine in Colombia, the US Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
In the lowland tropics of northern Colombia, 60 miles from the Caribbean coast, Cerrejón is an empty, forbidding, seemingly endless horizon of dusty outback, stripped of vegetation and crisscrossed with dirt roads that lead to enormous pits 15 miles in circumference.
Cerrejón also happens to be one of the world’s richest, most important fossil deposits, providing scientists with a unique snapshot of the geological moment when the dinosaurs had just ᴅɪsᴀᴘᴘᴇᴀʀᴇᴅ and a new environment was emerging.
UNL paleontologist Jason Head is one of the researchers who have helped bring the ancient reptile back to life in a scale model. “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.
The snake was believed to be 13 meter and weighed 1.14 -tonne. It looked like a modern-day boa constrictor, but behaved like water-dwelling anacondas. The thickest part of its body would have been as high as a human’s waist. The researcher believes the earth had to be very warm for the creature to grow so large. Head said global cooling may have led to the animal’s ᴇxᴛɪɴᴄᴛɪᴏɴ.
Unlike most of the other Titanoboa fossils, this one included a skull. The reason why they are so rare is that snake skulls are made of delicate bones that aren’t very well fused together. Once the animal ᴅɪᴇs, the skull falls apart. Its jaw had a quadrate, a hinge bone connecting the lower jaw to the skull, allowing the back of the lower jaw to extend behind Titanoboa‘s brain.
Its diet probably consisted of crocodilians, fish, and turtles. Reptiles can grow bigger in warmer climates, allowing coldblooded animals like Titanoboa to maintain the necessary metabolic rate to sustain its bulk.