Giant snakes are a common theme in mythology, horror stories, and even in Hollywood movies – think for example of the 1997 Jennifer Lopez movie, Ananconda. However a recent discovery has surprised scientists by revealed that in the past there were snakes even large than depicted in horror movies.
Titanoboa cerrejonensis was a giant snake that lived in Columbia in the Paleocene epoch, between about 60 million and 58 million years ago. Like its modern relatives in the boa family, it was non-venomous and killed its prey by wrapping itself around them crushing them until they died of suffocation (“constriction”).
The surprising thing about Titanoboa is its enormous size. You may have thought that the snakes depicted in the movie Ananconda were big, but Titanoboa was larger still. It is believed to have been around 43 feet (15 meters) long, around 3 feet (1 meter) in diameter, and probably weighed over 1 ton. This is considerably larger than any living species of snake.
It is not entirely clear how Titanoboa managed to grow so big. One possibility is that the warmer climate of the time (the Earth is believed to have been on average about 5 degrees warmer during that period than today) may have been a contributing factor.
Another question is what kind of diet Titanoboa would have eaten. Today’s constricting snakes most likely on a diet of relatively small animals, such as small mammals and birds. Titanoboa, given its enormous size, would have needed more food – so it is thought possible that its diet may have included crocodiles and large turtles.