By on February 17, 2009

Twenty-eight massive serpents were found in an open pit coal mine in Colombia, by a team led by Jason Head of the University of Toronto at Mississauga. Luckily for the researchers (unluckily for the producers of Jackass), the snakes had been dead for nearly 60 million years. Titanoboa cerrejonensis, could have swallowed my old gen-1 Saturn or a Mazda Miata. Snakes can devour beasts that are roughly as massive as they are, and the 42-45 foot long snake weighed around 2,500 lb. fully grown, roughly equal to the aforementioned machines. Or 500 lb. more than a Lotus Elise. At almost five times the weight of the green anaconda, the world’s heaviest living snake, Titanoboa’s diameter would have been greater than the height of said Elise.

Snakes are cold blooded, and cold blooded creatures are limited in their maximum size by average ambient temperature, which is part of what makes Titanoboa so amazing. Extrapolating from the snakes’ immensity, researchers now think that the Columbia of 58-60 million years ago would have simmered away at an annual average of 86-93°F, hotter than previously thought, and way hotter than the 75-79°F that is normal in today’s tropics. Until now, it was thought that such beastly temperatures would inevitably broil up a desert. Now we know the tropics could survive a warming world, giving Nature its revenge: snakes once again big enough to consume your car. Talk about bad karma . . . .

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19 Comments on “Car Eating Snake Revealed. In Theory....”

  • avatar

    Have I got the right website?

  • avatar

    Yeah, that is an amazing find and it certainly tells us a bit about what that part of the world was like when those massive snakes existed.

    Speaking of massive snakes.

  • avatar

    Pick your metaphor.

    Here’s mine:
    The “snake” is the UAW. The “prey” is the Big 3. The snake became extinct, and future generations of it are substantially smaller.


  • avatar

    Doesn’t this put a bit of a krimp on the idea of “global warming”?

  • avatar

    Doesn’t this put a bit of a krimp on the idea of “global warming”?

    No, and for the same reason that you can’t simply say “Well, it’s was cold here in Podunk this year, so Global Warming is bunk”.

    No respectable climate scientist thinks that human-generated pollution is not having an effect on the global climate patterns. What they do debate is what the nature and magnitude of the effects would be, though not to the degree that skeptics think. Skeptics take what is, essentially, a feature of how science works (open, informed debate about specifics) and use it, like the worst TV caricature of a court of law, to discredit the general principle.

    Anyone involved in science knows this is bad logic, but it works with people who like simple arguments, journalists compelled to “present both sides equally”, and especially groups who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

    Basic global heat is only part of the issue as to why tropics were hotter without evaporation being an issue. The atmosphere in this period had a very different gas composition (much more oxygen, for one), the continents (and thusly the gulf streams) followed a different path. Ice and ocean volumes were quite different. Hell, the earth spun faster and was closer to both it’s moon and the sun.

    My favourite, as a child, was reading about Archelon, the turtle about as big as a midsize car. Which this snake might have been able to consume.

    Which, of course, leads to another “Boa vs. Python” sequel, or perhaps “Snake On a Plane”.

  • avatar

    Trishield – several coworkers now think I have terets

  • avatar

    I take it the story refers to Colombia, not Columbia.

    And, wait a minute. I thought the earth was only 6000 years old, give or a take a generation or two. These giant snakes must have coexisted with Adam and Eve.

    Edit: Spitfire: wth are terets?

  • avatar

    Where’s Samuel Jackson when you need him?

  • avatar

    lol, i fail to see how this is related to cars in any way, but i can’t get enough of this kind of stuff so i’m all for it! and hey, a b&b discussion about global warming is as tangentially related as this article anyway.

    also, chiming in with dean to say it’s ColOmbia!! (pet peeve)

  • avatar

    What a shame they are extinct. I was thinking that the powers that be at a few wall street firms and a few elected officials would be good fodder for something like this.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @Danger_Mouse: the Earth has been warmer and atmosphere more oxygenated, which supported some very large arthropods which you may not want lurking in your basement. (And there were periods of cooling to boot.) Those and most other species are of course extinct, and humans not be compatible with a markedly different climate earth, either.

  • avatar

    humans not be compatible with a markedly different climate earth, either.

    Humans have the same advantages that rats and cockroaches have: we’re versatile, durable and breed like crazy.*

    I think we’ll be here for a while, yet.

    @Richard Chen: Arthropleura! Nice, I was trying to figure out how to sneak that one in.

    * I mean this in a good way. Unlike a lot of other animals, humans can be found just about anywhere and can cope with a lot. An extinction even would probably thin the herd, but no more than the other aforementioned vermin.

  • avatar

    I agree w/ all of psarhjinian’s comments. I would say though that while it would take an awful lot of global climate disruption to eradicate the species, it wouldn’t take all that much to cause major disruptions to civilization. I could easily imagine the world’s population, now about 6.7 billion and rising towards an estimated peak somewhere around 9-10 billion, plummeting to a billion.

  • avatar

    psarhjinian, so according to you everyone on this list is not a respectable climate scientist because they don’t fall for all the hype, and believe their own research and common sense instead.
    List of scientists opposing the mainstream scientific assessment of global warming

  • avatar

    Mark LaNeve is a snake? What? Oh, off-topic post thread. Still, it could have been a contendah.

  • avatar

    psarhjinian: Well done. Sadly, not everyone will understand what it is you’re saying.

  • avatar

    psarhjinian, so according to you everyone on this list is not a respectable climate scientist because they don’t fall for all the hype, and believe their own research and common sense instead.

    Did you read the credentials of these people?

    The top three who actively dispute the theory are two geographers and a chemist. No climatologists, meteorologists, oceanographers or fluid dynamicists in the bunch. Some of the stronger dissenters are nuclear physicists and petroleum/chemical engineers, which is tantamount to a cardiac surgeon or economic PhD. having an opinion.

    Did you also read what they’re saying? Not all of them are entirely against the concept—only the first three. Did you also note that none of these people have a published, peer-reviewed study to back up their words? Did you even note that there’s only a handful of people on that page, while the membership of the IPCC is an order of magnitude larger at least?

    You’re making the mistake, or deliberately choosing to misinterpret the scientific community, in the fashion I noted above, by listing a handpicked group of people, and then piecing out set of very specific statements frm them to drum up the idea of fundamental disagreement within the scientific community as to the root cause when in fact no such disagreement exists.

    Scientific consensus is not subject to courtroom-style histrionics or gonzo journalism. Climate-change deniers need to understand this before dredging up links from Google.

  • avatar

    Great stuff Holzman.

    And psarhjinian, just stop it man. Stop it. You’ll never convince me global warming is anthropogenic and not caused by the giant microwave dish satellite Al Gore keeps in North Dakota that I saw in my dreams once (and if you google “giant al gore satellite” you get 111,000 hits so don’t tell me it doesn’t exist when Google says otherwise). Also, I bet you never even saw Snakes on a Plane, so don’t you DARE make references to it. Jerk.

  • avatar

    psarhjinian, I don’t dispute the existence or global warming, nor do I dispute the existence of global cooling in the 70’s or the warming in the 40’s or the cooling in the 20’s. What I do have trouble believing is the cause and effect that everyone tries to make based on limited facts or limited window of facts.

    Many climatologists that I’ve heard/read specify that based on the last 10 years of data, we are in a dire situation, but if you look at the last 100 years of data, it’s just a natural cyclical temp variation.

    I’m NOT saying we should be irresponsible with our natural resources or be bad stewards of the land we inhabit, but we need to KNOW the cause and not guess based on limited facts and data sets.

    Global warming is occurring, but in 20-30 years, we’ll be back in a global cooling period.

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