From the small-sized, generally harmless common garter snakes, school kids learn that reptiles are cold-blooded animals, meaning they require an external source of heat to provide energy for movement and metabolism.

Reptiles also grow continuously throughout their lives, reaching an eventual stable state, then slowing down their body size expansion.

One of the few things that put a maximum limit to how much they can grow is the habitat ambient temperature; the warmer it gets, the bigger they can be, as in the case with Titanoboa, an extinct constrictor that would put even the most giant anaconda like a worm in comparison.

It probably was the giant snake to have ever slithered the Earth.

The giant snake was related to modern anacondas and boas – snakes that kill their prey by suffocation constricting the victims so tight that blood cannot circulate.

During the Middle to Late Paleocene epoch, or around 10 million years after the extinction event that wiped out most plants and animals, including the Dinosaurs, evolution got a bit carried away and created a 45-foot long snake that weighed 2,500 pounds, now known as the Titanoboa.

10 /10 La Guajira, Northeastern Colombia

About 55 million years ago, in the swampy waters known as La Guajira in northeastern Colombia, a monstrous giant snake lurked by Titanoboa.

It was a time of evolutionary period after the Dinosaurs went extinct. Stretching to 45 feet long and weighing up to 2,500 pounds, Titanoboa was at least ten times as heavy as an average green anaconda.

It was so massive that the snake pushed the boundaries of simply being able to exist on land and stay relevant to the laws of physics.

Wikimedia Commons

9 /10 Relatively New

For sure, Titanoboa had gone extinct before modern humans arrived, but at its discovery in 2009 by an international team of researchers, the giant snake was brand new to science.

The expedition unearthed the fossils of 28 individual Titanoboas from an open-pit coal mine of Cerrejón in Colombia.

Partial skeletons were subsequently transported to the Florida Museum of National History for analysis.

Based on the size of the fossilized vertebrae, it was determined that the fossils belonged to a massive snake of massive proportions between 42 and 45 feet long.


8 /10 Largest Ever

According to Jonathan Bloch, a vertebrae paleontologist at the University of Florida who co-led the expedition, two UF graduate students, Jason Bourque and Alex Hastings, were the first to recognize that the fossils were once parts of living breathing snake monsters.

To estimate the length and mass, scientists compared the relationship between body size and vertebrae of living snakes then used the ratio to determine how big the fossilized creatures were.

As it turned out, Titanoboa was much more extensive and longer than the enormous reticulated python. Even the snake that tried to eat Jennifer Lopez in “Anaconda” was not as massive.

7 /10 Bergmann's Rule

Unlike mammals blessed with sweat glands to cool down body temperature in the event of overheating, Titanoboa – and any other reptile for that matter – had no such luxury.

In the mammals’ world, a larger body is better suited to frigid temperature because a more extensive body helps retain heat, such as in the case of the polar bear.

A humongous snake-like Titanoboa would have been toasted in the middle of the tropical jungle of Colombia.

This is known as Bergmann’s rule. The snake’s preference for life in the water could be crucial to its supremacy.

6 /10 Aquatic Lifestyle

Maintaining life-supporting body temperature in the tropics didn’t have to be difficult for Titanoboa. Swampy waters became the savior in unrelenting heat.

Each time the snake felt too much cool temperature when submerged, it could easily make way to the surface and enjoy the sun.

The area where the fossils were unearthed indicates that Titanoboa had perished to river bottoms, keeping the remains well-protected from the elements and scavengers.

However, it remains unclear when exactly or why Titanoboa went extinct. A significant change in the ecosystem and ambient temperature might have contributed to their demise.

5 /10 Ambush Hunter

Considering the size and how it would have made a Titanoboa slither most sluggishly on land, the snake was likely an ambush hunter.

It just didn’t have the kind of agility required to dart around or, let alone engage in a chase.

In water, however, a Titanoboa can be agile (at least more than it could be on dry ground) enough to launch an attack and squeeze the life out of the victim.

They fed on other reptiles such as turtles, crocodiles, and fish, which must have been larger than their descendants today.

4 /10 Blindingly Fast Strike

Anacondas also do the same thing. When hunting, they lie and wait in shallow water, either completely submerged (as they can hold their breath for up to 45 minutes) or with only the nose poking out of the water.

On land, they conceal the big long body underneath rotting leaves and other debris for camouflage, then make a sudden, blindingly quick strike when an unsuspecting prey comes within their reach.

Anacondas do bite their game, but they kill by suffocation. They constrict the victims unmercifully tight; the pressure renders the circulatory system to a halt.

3 /10 Big Prey

South America had an average temperature of moderate 91 degrees Fahrenheit about 55 – 60 million years ago, but it was 10-degree warmer than today.

All reptiles are cold-blooded animals, so Titanoboa were not the only members of the species to grow out of proportion. The prey, including turtles and crocodiles, also earned the advantage from the warm habitat.

That said, a 5-foot long turtle or 20-foot crocodile were easy meals for a Titanoboa.

At around the same epoch, the only possible competitor from the snake family was Gigantophis which could grow to 33 feet long.

2 /10 Good Swimmer

When it comes to swimming, giant snakes are about the same as sloths; very slow on land, yet elegant in water. Scientists believed Titanoboa must have behaved in a more or less similar manner.

The simulated weightlessness thanks to the buoyant force brought undeniable advantage to the snake simply because it just wouldn’t have been able to get around well on land.

Titanoboa almost certainly spent most of its time in the water. The geological condition of the area where the fossils were preserved and the inferred size of the snake made such a conclusion a valid assessment.


1 /10 Clay And Coal

The fossils of Titanoboa were unearthed from a large open-pit coal mine. Since coal is essentially a product of plant remains submerged in water, every skeleton was buried under multiple layers of sediment above it.

In return, the fossils do not decay as rapidly as in other types of environments.

Throughout tens of millions of years, layers of sediment turned into varying types of rock. Miners, while working around the rocks for decades, are, of course, more interested in the plant-derived coal, not the rocks.  

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