Titanoboa was a true monster among prehistoric snakes, the size and weight of an extremely elongated school bus. Research has indicated that the giant snake looked like a boa constrictor—hence its name—but hunted like a crocodile. Here are nine facts about this 50-foot-long, 2,000-pound menace of the Paleocene epoch:
Appeared 5 Million Years After the K/T Extinction
After the K/T Extinction, an event—probably a massive meteor strike— that wiped out all the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, it took a few million years for terrestrial life to replenish itself. Appearing during the Paleocene epoch, Titanoboa was one of the first plus-size reptiles to reclaim the ecological niches left by dinosaurs and marine reptiles at the end of the Cretaceous period. The mammals of the Paleocene epoch had yet to evolve to giant sizes, which happened 20 million years later.
Titanoboa inhabited the first recorded Neotropical forest in the world. It shared its ecosystem with large Crocodylomorpha and large turtles, which may have served as food for the giant snake.
The size of T. cerrejonensis has also provided clues as to the earth’s climate during its existence; because snakes are ectothermic, the discovery implies that the tropics, the creature’s habitat, must have been warmer than previously thought, averaging about 32 °C (90 °F).
The warmer climate of the Earth during the time of T. cerrejonensis allowed cold-blooded snakes to attain much larger sizes than modern snakes. Today, larger ectothermic animals are found in the tropics, where it is hottest, and smaller ones are found farther from the equator.