Titanoboa - Titanic Boa Fossil From Colombia Is World's Largest Snake
    By News Staff | February 4th 2009 12:00 AM | 16 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Excavations in Colombia co-organized by Carlos Jaramillo, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and Jonathan Bloch, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the University of Florida's Florida Museum of Natural History, have unearthed fossil remains of a new snake species they named Titanoboa cerrejonensis

    Surrounded by huge trucks extracting coal from Cerrejon, one of the world's largest open-pit mines, researchers discovered fossilized bones of super-sized snakes and their prey, crocodiles and turtles, in the Cerrejon Formation, along with fossilized plant material from the oldest known rainforest in the Americas, which flourished at the site 58-60 million years ago.

    Estimated Titanoboa size: 42 feet (13 meters); 1140 kilograms. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest snake ever measured was 10 meters (33 feet) in length. The heaviest snake, a python, weighed 183 kilograms (403 pounds).

    Titanoboa cerrejonesis
    This artist's rendering of Titanoboa cerrejonensis demonstrates the great snake's size. It is anticipated the boa spent much of its life in or near water.  Photo by: Jason Bourque, University of Florida

    Jason Head, the lead author of the new species description in the journal Nature, is a research associate at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Head, with David Polly, associate professor of geosciences at Indiana University, used the ratio between vertebral size and the length of existing snakes to estimate that this boa-like snake must have reached 13 meters (42 feet) in length and weighed more than a ton.

    Titanoboa, as it is now called, is the largest snake ever known, and was the largest non-marine vertebrate from the epoch immediately following the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. "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 Head "This shows how much more information about the history of Earth there is to glean from a resource like the reptile fossil record."

     University of Florida graduate student Jason Bourque (left) demonstrates how a rib would have articulated onto a vertebra of the largest snake the world has ever known on Dec. 17, 2008. Partial skeletons of the giant, boa-constrictor-like snake named Titanoboa,€ estimated to be 42 to 45 feet long, were found in Colombia by an international team of scientists and studied at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. UF graduate student Alex Hastings (center) and UF vertebrate paleontologist Jonathan Bloch (right) are each holding a vertebra as well. In the foreground are various other Titanoboa fossils, including segments of the articulated skeleton.   Photo by Ray Carson - UF News Bureau

    Titanoboa's size indicates that it lived in an environment where the average yearly temperature was 30-34 degrees Celsius. This estimate coincides with paleoclimatic models predicting greenhouse conditions. "This temperature estimate is much hotter than modern temperatures in tropical rainforests anywhere in the world. The fossil floras that the Smithsonian has been collecting in Cerrejon for many years indicate that the area was a tropical rainforest. That means that tropical rainforests could exist at temperatures 3-4 degrees Celsius hotter than modern tropical rainforests experience," said Jaramillo.

    Titanoboa cerrejonensis
    A display of vertebra and rib bones from the Titanboa, which grew up to 45 feet, weighed 1.25 tons and was the largest vertebrate on earth for 20 million years. On the bottom center are the vertebra and skull of a modern 17 foot Anaconda for size comparison. Partial skeletons of the giant, boa-constrictor-like snake named Titanoboa, were found in Colombia by an international team of scientists and studied at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.   Photo by Ray Carson UF News Bureau

    Support for this research comes from the National Science Foundation, Fondo para Investigaciones del Banco de la Republica de Colombia, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Paleobiology Fund, the Florida Museum of Natural History, a Geological Society of America Graduate Student Research Grant and a National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant and the Cerrejon Coal Mine.

    Researchers and institutions: Jason J. Head, University of Toronto Jonathan I. Bloch, University of Florida, Gainesville Alexander K. Hastings, University of Florida, Gainesville Jason R. Bourke, University of Florida, Gainesville Edwin A. Cadena, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute; University of Florida, Gainesville Fabiany A. Herrera, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute; University of Florida, Gainesville David Polly, Indiana University, Bloomington Carlos A. Jaramillo, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
    Article: Jason J. Head, Jonathan I. Bloch, Alexander K. Hastings, Jason R. Bourke, Edwin A. Cadena, Fabiany A. Herrera, P. David Polly, and Carlos A. Jaramillo. 2008. Giant boid snake from the paleocene neotropics reveals hotter past equatorial temperatures. Nature 457, 715-717 (2009).


    Some pages articles say it was 43 feet long, and here it's 45 feet long. Which information is true? Or were those measurements just approximates?

    Like people, they aren't all identical in size so some may have grown up to 45 feet but this was one smaller - and, yes, due to its age it isn't a measurement but more of an extrapolation.
    The finding is very interesting,this shows again that ,the Indians from the region that told thousands of stories of enormous snakes,maybe are very true ,still the largest recorded Green Anaconda (Eunectes Murinus gigas) with the record from the geological survey team Lamon-Dunn in 1943 in Eastern Colombia is set at 11,43 m for an accurate measurement by experts .That kind of dimensions of an bulky Anaconda could have weight more than 750 - 800 kilos .There is also an older record from the Ivory coast in 1931 ,the central African rock python caught there along the Goldcoast was measured at 9,81 m and probably weighed around 600 kilos,according to several sources ... These and more accounts are from recent times,and more from Africa ,South -East Asia,and the Surinam/Brazil region tells us that snakes this size still do exist..
    That brings us to the facts that also the former? recordholder the Gigantophis garstini,which also said to grow to more than 15 meters in length,but also wasn't dissapeared till the end of the Middle Pleistocene ,in North Africa,where the temperatures where moderately comparable to the temperatures in the Tropical Forests nowadays ,which proves that the temperatures in the times of titanoboa,didn't have to be 6 degrees warmer to support its Body temperature,a bigger body can hold its temperature much longer,because of its containing area .
    In 1993 the welknown Adriana Albino described a couple of specimens ,'The boine Chubutophis is know from a very large isolated vertebra of Chubutophis grandis, suggesting that it is the largest snake known from the world, larger than the extinct Madtsoia or Gigantophis, and the extant Eunectes or Python,the fragments of the species showed that the Giant snake still was a youngster and had plenty of growing to do,estimated a length of 16 - 20 meters in length or more,another species that is still unknown,was also very large .
    This and more information on other recent and Neogene giant snakes ,let me believe that the Titano Boa is not the record holder but one of the Bigger Species ever found,but still very impressive found that learns us more on Snake Biology and ecological history in times these snakes occured . Lack of data and specimens of fullgrown fossil snakes will keep us in doubt of which species are the former recordholders

    Carl Ganz ;Reptiles ,guide of
    Albino, A.M. 1993. Snakes from the late Paleocene and early Eocene of Patagonia (Argentina): paleoecology and coevolution with mammals. Historical Biology 7: 51-69.
    Scanlon, J.D., and B.S. Mackness. 2002. A new giant python from the Pliocene Bluff Downs Local Fauna of northeastern Queensland. Alcheringa.
    Simpson, G.G. 1933. A new fossil snake from the Notostylops beds of Patagonia. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 67:

    While reading a scholarly book - The Ancient History Of The Egyptians, Carthaginians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes And Persians, Macesonians And Grecians by Charles Rollin From The Lastest London Edition, dated 1860, I came across a very interesting account of an encounter with a giant serpernt. I will quote the book's account...

    "In the interval between the departure of Manlius and the taking of Tunis, we are to place the memorable combat of Regulius and his whole army with a serpent of so prodigious a size, that the fabulous one of Cadmus is hardly comparable to it. The story of this serpent was elegantly written by Livy, but it is now lost. Valerius Maximus, however partly repairs that loss; and, in the last chapter of his first book, gives us this account of the monster from Livy himself. He (Livy) says, that on the banks of Bagrada, an African river, lay a serpent, of so enormous a size, that it kept the whole Roman army from coming to the river. Several soldiers had been buried in the wide caverns of its belly , and many pressed to death in the spiral volumes of its tail. Its skin was impenetrable to darts; and it was with repeated endeavours that stones, slung from military engines, at last killed it. The serpent then exhibited a sight that was more terrible to the Roman cohorts and legions, than even Carthage itself. The streams of the river were dyed with its blood, and the stench of its putrified carcass infecting the adjacent country, the Roman army was forced to decamp. Its skin, one hundred and twenty feet long, was sent to Rome; and,, if Pliny may be credited, was to be seen, together with the jaw-bone of the same monster, in the temple where they were first deposited, as late as the Numantine war."

    Now, that's a snake...Maybe the fossils of this beast still lay at the bottom of the river, for any of you anthropologists.

    I just found it fascinating, and since the source of this information is of the highest quality of ancient historians, I for one believe the account to be accurate. It would be awesome for some scientist to prove its history.

    Fossil Huntress
    Well written. Bloody frigthening to learn of a boa 40+ feel long. I'd already started to have nightmares about cave bears.... and now this!
    Dang. Why'd it have to be snakes?!

    very unbelibible.That reptile was giant.

    If gigantism can be found in creatures such as crocodiles and snakes. coulld this condition also be attributed to large spiders
    They may have existed but we have been unable to locate their fossils.