Snakes have always terrified many peoples of the world. Imminent death was associated with snakes, snakes were harbingers of trouble. Titanoboa is a giant snake, which, unfortunately or fortunately, has not been caught by mankind. It was one of the most formidable predators of its Paleocene period.
Origin of the species and description
Titanoboa is a species of extinct snake classified in the only genus Titanoboa. Based on the structure of the skeleton, scientists conclude that the snake was a close relative of the boa constrictor. Its name also indicates this, since Boa is Latin for “boa constrictor”.
The first whole remains of a titanoboa were found in Colombia. The researchers found that the snake lived about 60 million years ago. This snake appeared after the death of dinosaurs – then life on Earth was restored and gained strength for several million years.
These remains were a real find for scientists – it was as many as 28 individuals. Before that, only vertebrae were found in South America, so this creature remained a mystery to researchers. Only in 2008, Jason Head, at the head of his group, described such a species as titanoboa.
Titanoboa lived during the Paleocene era, a period when many living creatures on the planet were gigantic due to gravitational and atmospheric changes. Titanoboa confidently occupies a niche in the food chain, becoming one of the most formidable predators of its era.
Not so long ago, the gigantophis, which reached a length of 10 meters, was considered the largest snake ever to have existed. Titanoboa surpassed him in length and outstripped him in weight. It is also considered a more dangerous snake than its predecessor, as it hunted very large prey.
Appearance and Features
Titanoboa is called the largest snake in the world for a reason. Its length could exceed 15 meters, and the weight reached a ton. The widest part of the titanoboa was one meter in diameter. Its oral cavity had a structure that allowed it to swallow prey that exceeded its width – the mouth opened almost to a horizontal state, due to which the dead victim immediately fell into the food canal.
Interesting fact: The longest snake to date is a reticulated python, reaching seven meters in length. The smallest is considered leptotyplios, which barely reaches 10 cm.
Titanoboa had large scales, which were preserved in layers next to the remains in the form of imprints. She was completely covered with these scales, including her massive head. Titanoboa had pronounced fangs, a massive upper jaw, and a movable lower jaw. The eyes of the snake were small, and the nasal passages were also barely visible.
The head, indeed, was very large relative to the rest of the body. This is justified by the size of the prey that the titanoboa fed on. The body had an uneven thickness: after the head, peculiar thin cervical vertebrae began, after which the snake thickened to the middle, and then narrowed towards the tail.
Interesting fact: Compared to the current giant snake, the anaconda , the titanoboa was twice as long and four times as heavy as her. The anaconda weighs about two hundred kg.
Of course, the individuals were not preserved in such a way that it was possible to determine the color of the snake. But scientists believe that the bright color was not characteristic of animals in its habitat. Titanoboa led a secretive life and had a camouflage coloration. Most of all, its color resembled a modern python – a dark green shade of scales and dark annular spots all over the body.
Now you know what the titanoboa looked like. Let's find out where the giant snake lived.
Where did the titanoboa live?
All snakes are cold-blooded, and titanoboa was no exception. Therefore, the habitat of this snake must be warm or hot, with a tropical or subtropical climate. The average annual temperature for such a snake should be at least 33 degrees Celsius. The warm climate allowed these snakes to reach enormous sizes.
The remains of these snakes have been found in the following locations:
- Southeast Asia;
The first remains were found at the bottom of a Colombian mine in Carregion. However, it is worth making an error for changes in the position of the continents and climate change, which makes it difficult to establish the exact habitat of the titanoboa.
Specialist Mark Denny claims that the titanoboa was so huge that it produced an enormous amount of heat from metabolic processes. Because of this, the ambient temperature around this creature must have been four or six degrees below what many other scientists claim. Otherwise, the titanoboa would overheat.
It was reliably established that titanoboa lived in tropical and subtropical rainforests. She preferred to hide in the muddy rivers and lakes, from where she led her hunt. Snakes of this size moved extremely slowly, rarely crawled out of their shelters, and, moreover, did not crawl through trees, as many boas and pythons do. In support of this, scientists draw analogies with the modern anaconda, which leads just such a lifestyle.
What did the titanoboa eat?
Based on the structure of its teeth, scientists believe that the snake ate mainly fish. No fossilized remains were found inside the skeletons of giant snakes, however, due to a sedentary lifestyle and its physiology, it follows that the snake did not absorb large prey.
Not all scientists agree that the titanoboa was exclusively piscivorous. Many believe that the huge body of the snake required a large amount of energy, which she simply could not get from the fish. Therefore, there are suggestions that the following creatures of the Paleocene era could become victims of the titanoboa.
Cubs of carodnia – large mammals that lived in the same area as the titanoboa;
- late Paleocene phenacodus.
There are also suggestions that the snake did not hunt in the usual way for pythons. Initially, there was a belief that the titanoboa wrapped rings around the prey and squeezed it, breaking bones and interrupting breathing. In fact, the titanoboa used camouflage, plunging into the muddy water and hiding at the bottom.
When the victim approached the water's edge, the snake made a swift throw, grabbed the prey with powerful jaws, instantly breaking its bones. This method of hunting is not typical for non-venomous snakes, but is used by crocodiles.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Titanoboa led a secretive solitary life. Their huge size and physical strength were offset by the fact that the snake was inactive on land, so it preferred to hide in the water. Most of the snake's time was spent burrowing into the mud and waiting for possible prey – a large fish that would not notice a hidden predator.
Like anacondas and boas, the titanoboa was aimed at conserving energy. She moved only when she felt hungry after long digestion of the same food. She hunted mainly in the water, but she could swim close to land, hiding at the edge. When any animals of the right size came to the watering hole, the titanoboa would immediately react and kill them. The snake almost did not crawl out onto land, doing this only in rare cases.
At the same time, the titanoboa did not differ in excessive aggressiveness. If the snake was full, she did not feel like attacking fish or animals, even if they were nearby. Also, the titanoboa could be prone to cannibalism, which confirms her solitary lifestyle. There is a possibility that these snakes were purely territorial creatures. They were able to defend their territory against other titanoboas, as the food supply of these snakes was limited due to their size.
Social structure and reproduction
It is extremely difficult to establish the period in which the mating games of the titanoboa began. It is only possible to guess how the seasonal breeding of these snakes took place, based on the already known facts about the breeding of anacondas and boas. Titanoboa were egg-laying snakes. The breeding season was during the period when the air temperature began to rise after the seasonal decline – roughly speaking, in the spring-summer period, when the rainy season began.
Since the titanoboa lived solitarily, males had to independently look for females. Most likely, in a certain territorial area there was one male and several females with whom he could mate.
It is difficult to assume whether the males had titanium fights among themselves for the right to mate. Modern non-venomous snakes do not differ in conflict, and females independently choose the male they like best, if there is a choice, without any demonstration fights. As a rule, the largest male gets the right to mate – the same can be applied to the titanoboa.
Females laid eggs near their natural habitat – lakes, rivers or swamps. Anacondas and boas zealously guard the laid eggs, so it can be assumed that female titanoboa were regularly near the masonry and guarded it from encroachments of predators. During this time, large snakes stop eating and become exhausted, since males do not take any part in nursing eggs.
At first, newborn snakes were next to their mother, although they were large enough for independent hunting. Later, the surviving individuals found a secluded territory for themselves, where they continued to exist.
Titanoboa natural enemies
Although the titanoboa was a giant snake, it was not a particularly large creature of its era. At this time, there were many other giant animals that competed with her. For example, the Carbonemis tortoises, whose remains are often found in swamps and lakes near the remains of the titanoboa, can be classified as such.
The fact is that these turtles had the same food base as the titanoboa – fish. They also share a similar image of hunting – disguise. Because of this, the titanoboa often clashed with the giant tortoise, and these skirmishes could be deplorable for the snake. The turtle's jaws were powerful enough to bite through a titan head or thinner body. In turn, the titanoboa could only injure the turtle's head, since the bite force would definitely not be enough to break the shell.
Giant crocodiles, which still prefer to live in small rivers or stagnant waters, could also seriously compete with the titanoboa . They could perceive the titanoboa as both a rival in the food chain and as prey. Crocodiles came in a variety of sizes, but the largest of them could kill a titanoboa.
It is unlikely that any of the mammals or birds posed a threat to the giant snake. Due to her secretive lifestyle and large size, no animals could detect her or pull her out of the water. Therefore, only other reptiles that shared the same habitats with it could pose a threat to the titanoboa.
Population and species status
The reason for the extinction of the titanoboa is simple: it lies in climate change, which has severely affected the cold-blooded reptile. Titanoboa adapted well to high temperatures, but could not stand low ones. Therefore, the movement of the continents and the gradual cooling led to the slow extinction of these snakes.
Scientists believe that due to global warming titanoboa may return. Millions of years of adaptation to elevated temperatures cause animals to grow in size, producing more carbon dioxide. Modern anacondas and boas can evolve into a Titanoboa-like species, but it will take millions of years.
Titanoboas have remained in popular culture. For example, in 2011, a ten-meter mechanical model of this giant snake was created, and the design team plans to make the snake in full size – all 15 meters.
Fun fact: At Grand Central Station in New York in 2012, a skeletal reconstruction of the titanoboa was presented. Locals could get a glimpse of the colossal size of this ancient creature.
The titanoboa has also appeared in movies and books. This snake leaves a lasting impression – just one look at the size of its skeleton is enough. Titanoboa occupied the top position in the Paleocene food chain, and was also a real giant of its era.