Where: Cerrejon, Colombia

February 4, 2009 : ‘Nature’ journal reports that the snake, named ‘Titanoboa cerrejonensis’ by the scientists who found the remains, would have had a 13-metre-long body and weighed 1,140 kilograms, making it the largest snake on record. A mathematical ratio between the size of vertebrae and the length of the body in living snakes was used by the team to estimate the size. The world’s heaviest snakes, green anacondas, weigh only 250 kilograms, and the longest, reticulated pythons, measure 10 metres at the most. Titanboa would have been similar to a boa constrictor, and could have swallowed a whole cow. What its prey was has not been established, but it would have needed to eat a lot.

Titanboa would have lived five million years after dinosaurs became extinct. The discovery can supply clues about the world’s climate in the post-dinosaur era. Scientists calculate that the mean annual temperature in equatorial South America 60 million years ago would have been 30-34 degrees centigrade, as opposed to about 28 degrees centigrade today.

The find also provides indicators about the biological limitations on the evolution of giant snakes. Reptiles cannot regulate their body temperature, and as a result, they are limited in body size by the temperature of their habitat. This is why they are bigger in the tropics than they are in cooler places.

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Filed under: world news
Tags: #scientists, #snakes, #temperature

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