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Forum LockedFossils of Largest Snake

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    Posted: 08-Feb-2009 at 21:06
 
Quote Fossils of Largest Snake Give Hint of Hot Earth
 

Some 60 million years ago, well after the demise of the dinosaurs, a giant relative of today’s boa constrictors, weighing more than a ton and measuring 42 feet long, hunted crocodiles in rain-washed tropical forests in northern South America, according to a new fossil discovery.

The fossil find — a batch of super-sized vertebrae pulled from an open-pit coal mine in northeast Colombia — is remarkable enough just as a paleontological extreme. The species, given the name Titanoboa cerrejonensis, is now the largest known snake species ever discovered.

But the existence of such a large snake may also help clarify how hot the tropics became during an era when the planet, as a whole, was far warmer than it is now, and also how well moist tropical ecosystems can tolerate a much warmer global climate.

That last question is important in assessments of how human-driven global warming might affect the tropics. Some scientists foresee the Amazon’s drying up, for instance, although other work cuts against that conclusion.

The discovery and its climatic implications are described in Thursday’s edition of the journal Nature.

An independent critique of the work by Matthew Huber, an earth and climate scientist at Purdue, also published in Nature, said the findings provided a hint that the tropics could get a lot warmer than they are now, but also “attest to the resiliency of tropical ecosystems in the face of extreme warming.”

With scant precise evidence of past temperature changes on land in the tropics, there is still substantial debate about whether these regions have gotten much warmer than typical steamy tropical conditions today — with an annual average temperature of 75 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

The team examined how warm it had to be for a snake species to be that large by considering conditions favoring the largest living similar tropical snake, the green anaconda, said Jason J. Head, the lead author of the paper and a paleontologist at the University of Toronto. They concluded that Titanoboa could have thrived only if temperatures ranged from 86 to 93 degrees.

I'm sure longest snakes fossils has been discovered, althought not sure if had largest body mass.


Edited by Ikki - 08-Feb-2009 at 21:09
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Knights Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Feb-2009 at 03:21
Thanks for posting this, Ikki. I love the snake's name - Titanoboa. Has a nice ring to it.

I read one of the links you posted, which claims the Titanoboa was the largest non-marine vertebrate on earth following the extinction of the dinosaurs (c. 65mya). This is an interesting thought, but surely there must have been larger land vertebrates at the time? I might look into it.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Feb-2009 at 19:16
My papers claimed the same thing. But who would have been larger?
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Darius of Parsa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Feb-2009 at 00:37
Originally posted by rider rider wrote:

My papers claimed the same thing. But who would have been larger?
 
 


A crocodile perhaps?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Knights Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Feb-2009 at 01:30
Yes I was thinking something like Deinosuchus, the enormous Cretaceous crocodilian. But of course, Titanoboa is noted for being in the era just after the dinosaurs, thus after the Cretaceous. Deinosuchus went extinct before 65mya, meaning it pre-dated Titanoboa. I'll keep thinking...

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Feb-2009 at 16:05
Thinking is good. Let me know if you come upon something.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Knights Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Feb-2009 at 12:17
Well I went and did a bit of reading, and came up with absolutely nothing that comes even remotely close to titanoboa. The largest crocodilians are archaic alligatorids and gharials (champsosaurids), ranging from 1-3m. Tiny in comparison. The mammals have no chance, and whilst the paleocene (just after the final mass dinosaur extinction at the end of the cretaceous, c.60mya) saw some huge birds ('terror birds' like Gastornis), none could match titanoboa.

So it seems this truly titanic snake was the giant of its day!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TheARRGH Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Mar-2009 at 17:12
Giant it may have been...but what was it's cranial capacity?

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