World's Biggest Snake Could Live Again

Paleontologists have discovered fossil remains of the world's biggest snake, which was 13 meters long (over twice as big as this giant anaconda, pictured). Though they lived 60 million years ago, such snakes could re-evolve.

A team of researchers from the University of Toronto at Mississauga found the creature's remains in Colombia. This is quite near where its closest living relative, the anaconda, still lives - the mega-snake you see here was found on the border between Colombia and Brazil. Dubbed the Titanoboa, the ancient giant snake would have been the length of a city bus, and would have been so hefty that its body would have "reached a person's hips," according to BBC News.

The researchers' findings are published this week in the journal Nature. Their discovery also sheds light on Earth's temperatures 60 million years ago, because reptiles can only grow to such enormous sizes in very warm temperatures. This is because, as cold-blooded creatures, they depend on local temperatures for warmth. For the metabolism to function in a snake this big, researchers estimate the average temperatures in Columbia would have been about 30 C on a typical day. That's two degrees higher than the average temperature today.

Like its anaconda descendants, it's likely the Titanoboa spent most of its time in the water. P David Polly, a co-author of the Nature article on Titanoboa, says the creatures probably ate fish and alligators. He adds that as temperatures warm up on Earth today, we are likely to see snakes evolving to be much larger again. Currently, the biggest snakes on Earth are boa constrictors, but even the biggest of these is still 10 feet smaller than the Titanoboa fossil.

Several researchers have questioned Polly's claims about temperature changes, and many caution that more research needs to be done before we start worrying about climate change producing mega-snakes.

SOURCES:

BBC News

Nature

AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills