Vertebra Cast of Earth’s Largest Snake on Display at IU

The earth's largest snake on record is on display as part of a special exhibit at the IU Bloomington Geology Building.

TitanoboaSnake

Photo: Jason Bourque, University of Florida

This artist's rendering of Titanoboa cerrejonensis demonstrates the great snake's size. It is anticipated the boa spent much of its life in or near water.

The earth’s largest snake on record is on display as part of a special exhibit at the IU Bloomington Geology Building. What’s left of the 60-million-year-old snake is it’s vertebra.

On display is actually a cast of the constrictor from Columbia, and at first it’s not that impressive. Associate Professor of IU Geological Sciences David Polly describes the size of the snake by comparing the vertebra of a python to the Titanoboa cerrejonensis. It’s then when the change in size is impressive. The snake would be about the size of a bus measuring about 43 feet and weighing 25-hundred pounds.

“Dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago, so it’s living just a few million years after the dinosaurs and probably the dinosaurs having gone extinct, this may have been the largest land vertebrate on earth at that time,” said Polly.

An exciting find for graduate students who are working on various aspects of snake biology.

“I was very excited when I heard we were getting the cast of Titanoboa because I also study geometric morphometrics,” said IU graduate student Michelle Lawing. “Having the cast will allow us to photograph it and do analysis on it ourselves and not rely on pictures from publications.”

Learning more about how the size of the snake correlates to the environment at that time.

“We use the size of this thing as sort of a snake paleothermometer to estimate what the temperature would have been 55 million years ago in Columbia,” said Polly.

Joe Hren

Anchor, Indiana Newsdesk - WTIU & WFIU News. Follow him on Twitter @Joe_Hren

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