PANAMA CITY, February 5, 2009 (AFP) – Scientists have found a 60-million-year-old fossil of the world’s largest snake, a 13-meter (42-foot), one-tonne behemoth dubbed Titanoboa, in a coal mine in Colombia, the US Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute said Wednesday.
“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, member of the Panama-based research institute and lead author of the study to be published Thursday in Nature magazine.
“This shows how much more information about the history of Earth there is to glean from a resource like the reptile fossil record,” said the assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto Mississauga.
From the size of the 1.14-tonne Titanoboa, scientists have estimated the average annual temperature in the tropical jungle it inhabited 60 million years ago at 30-34 degrees Celsius (86-93 degrees Farenheit).
“This temperature estimate is much hotter than modern temperatures in tropical rainforests anywhere in the world,” said Carlos Jaramillo, Smithsonian staff scientist and co-organizer of the excavations in Colombia.
“That means that tropical rain