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Gigantic snakes as long as 13 meters and as heavy as a medium sedan car, which can make the anacondas and pythons of today look tiny, once slithered in the rain forests of the planet, latest discovery of fossils in Latin American country Colombia reveals.




Fossils of snakes - SaranathanThe 60-million year old fossils found in Columbia by an international team of scientists are a proof that these reptiles were dotting the landscape of the South American rain forests six million years after the extinction of the dreaded predator dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex.

Christened as "Titanoboa" these 1,100 kg monster snake was a non-venomous constrictor, like anacondas and boas, ate giant turtles and crocodiles which were the other prominent reptile species in rain forests during Paleocene Epoch, five to six million years immediately following the extinction of dinosaurs from the Earth.

'This new species of snake is the largest ever known, living or fossil. The largest living snakes are pythons and anacondas, which normally grow up to about six meters long and occasionally get as big as nine meters. The largest fossil snakes known up to now got to be about 10 meters long. This new snake was normally about 13 meters long, so by far the largest known,' David Polly, geologist from Indiana University, US told PTI.

The findings published in the latest edition of the journal 'Nature' will help in understanding the impact of temperatures on the size of cold-blooded species. Scientists say that body size of snakes and other reptiles get limited by the ambient temperature of where they live.

'If you look at cold blooded animals and their distribution on the planet today, the large ones are in tropics, where its hottest, and they become smaller the farther away they are from equator,' said Jason Head, lead
researcher from University of Toronto.

'It demonstrates that paleotemperature (temperatures in pre-historic period) can be estimated reasonably accurately from the body sizes of cold-blooded animals,' said Polly in an email interview.

The discovery of a snake of this size suggests that temperatures along the equator were 32 degree Centigrade, five degree warmer than upper temperature limit for tropical rain forests in modern times.

'The temperature we estimated from the size of the new snake is so close to the temperature estimated from climate models and fossil plants shows that fossil vertebrates can provide additional, independent data on what climates in the past were like,' he said.

'It also means that tropical rain forests could exist at temperatures three-four degrees hotter than modern rainforest's experience,' Head said.

The fossil was discovered in the one of the world's largest open-pit mine area of Cerrejon Formations in Columbia also known as oldest known rain forest in Americas which flourished at the site 58-60 million years ago.

It was later transferred to University of Florida's museum of Natural History where it was recognised that they belong to a huge snake. The researchers estimated the size of the reptile using ratio between vertebral size and length of existing snakes.


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