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Beware! You might develop Ophidiophobia (phobia of snakes) after knowing about this snake as we are talking about giant snake called Titanoboa(meaning Titanic Boa) also referred as “Monster Snake”.
60 miles away from that coast of Caribbean lies an empty forest with stripped off vegetation and dusty roads that will lead you to huge pits stretching over a circumference of 15 miles. This forest lying in the north of Columbia is known as, “Cerrejón” and is home to one of the largest coal operations of the world. The area covered by it is larger than Washington DC. Every time the thick layers of coal are extracted, it reveals the fossils hidden under the layer of mudstones.
Cerrejón is also one of the richest fossil deposits in the world, providing archeologists with an opportunity to explore and study the emerging environmental changes. Carlos Jaramillo, from Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute says, “Cerrejón is the best, and probably the only, window on a complete ancient tropical ecosystem anywhere in the world. The plants, the animals, everything. We have it all, and you can’t find it anywhere else in the tropics.”
So today we are taking you back in time, almost 60 million years back to meet these snakes. This is the era where dinosaurs are extinct. In fact, we are talking about the time, 5 million years after the dinosaurs became instinct. At this point in time, Cerrejón is a swampy tropical jungle where the climate is extremely hot. The climate may rise up to 90 Fahrenheit. The leaves of the trees found here are wider and rainfall is recorded to be more than 150 inches annually. The water from the surrounding rivers swirl around the palm trees, hummocks and hardwoods. Some parts of the forests are covered by thick coating of mud caused by floods.
You will find 12 feet long giant turtles, in other words known as Carbonemys, seven feet long lungfish and giant crocodiles in this jungle. But all these animals sharing the same habitat does not stand a chance against our monster snake. The Monster Snake is the “Lord of the Jungle”.
Why? Titanoboa is truly a monster with a length of more than 40 feet and weight more than a ton i.e., 2500 pounds. Now our giant friend might look likes a boa constrictor of modern days, but it behaves more like an anaconda. It is also believed to hunt like a crocodile. The deadliest king of the swamp is a predator that every potential prey fears. Usually its preys are prehistoric crocodiles and Carbonemys.
It is as thick as a man’s waist i.e. almost 3 feet and has size relative to a big sized bus. The color of the skin is muddy which enables it to camouflage easily in its environment. So before you can take out your camera and take a shot..…Snap! You are history!
Today the signs of this amazing snake are only found as fossils that have been discovered in this area. The scientists call it by the name of “Titanoboa cerrejonensis” and it is known to be the largest snake that has ever existed on this planet.
Why these snakes were so huge? Researchers believe that the hotter climate in that era enabled the cold-blooded snakes to grow bigger in size than the modern snakes. It was two times larger than the world’s largest extant snake, Python reticulatus i.e., 29 feet long. But still, some researchers say that the size of Titanoboa was equal to shrimp as compared to the dinosaurs.
So far 28 individual Titanoboa fossils have been drawn from Cerrejón in the year 2009.
The first team to discover its fossils include Jonathan Bloch, from University of Florida and Carlos Jaramillo from Smithson Tropical Research Institute, in Panama. What’s fascinating about their exploration is that not only the fossils found belong to the largest snake of the earth but also for the first time ever the skull of the snake was discovered. This is what Bloch has to say, “You just never find a snake skull, and we have one. When the animal dies, the skull falls apart. The bones get lost.” Researchers believe that the skull would enable them to have a better understanding of its evolution, size and diet.
So you want more of Titanoboa? No problem! You can catch this super star on Smithsonian Channel on a TV show called, “Titanoboa: Monster Snake.” The show was aired on April 1, 2012.
In March 2012 a replica of Titanoboa was created with a length of 48 feet and weighs around 2500lb for the promotion of this show. The model Titanboa was displayed at Grand Central Station in New York, to scare people.