Science, Science and Tech

A Basilisk? No. Meet Titanoboa

Titanoboa, or Titanoboa cerrejonensis, has taken the crown as the world’s largest snake. Fossils were first discovered in the Cerrejon coalmine, Columbia, back in 2009 and after years of investigation the full extent of the discovery has been revealed.

It was two graduate students at the University of Florida who were granted the task of unpacking the fossils collected by Dr John Bloch. Despite having marked the vertebrate in question as crocodile, the two grad students recognised it to be a snake, despite the enormous size. At the time of the discovery the largest snake known to have existed, the aptly named Gigantophis, was found to have lived about 26 million years ago in Egypt and grew to lengths of 33ft. Titanoboa was about to change this.

As whole fossilized snake skulls are extremely rare to find due to their delicate nature, the team had only one or two vertebrae to work from. It took a year to create a mathematical graph, based on modern snake skeletons, which would give Bloch and his colleagues an accurate estimation of how large the snake would really be. The program was created by using an MRI scanner to make a complete analysis of different species of snake. Once this data was collected, the computer program was able to establish whereabouts along the spine the snake vertebrae came from.

At 48ft in length and weighing the same as 20 fully grown adults, it was not only the largest but also the heaviest snake that had ever existed. Having been classified as a constrictor in the boa family, it was determined that its size gave it a crushing power of 400 pounds per square inch which would have easily have taken down a large crocodile, thought to be a staple in the Titanoboa’s diet.

Based on the modern distribution of snakes in relation to their size, the hotter the region the larger the snake. The high temperatures and humidity that would have been Columbia 65 million years ago, allowed these snakes to reach such vast proportions.

Unfortunately, this therefore renders the idea of such a huge snake existing in a cold underground cave in a Scottish castle as being pretty ridiculous. Come on JK, do your research first.


About Author



May 2021
Latest Comments
About Us

The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

If you would like to get in touch, email the Editor on Follow us at @ConcreteUEA.