The Snake Of Your Nightmares
Writing for Smithsonian Magazine, Guy Gugliotta explores the discovery of Titanoboa, a prehistoric snake that grew to over 40 feet in length, and how it has forced Scientists’ to reconsider the nature of prehistoric life:
In 2007, Hastings was inspecting a shipment of fossils labeled “crocodile” and noticed a strange—and very large—vertebra. To his trained eye, it was clearly “not from a croc.” He showed it to fellow graduate student Jason Bourque, a fossil conservationist and reptile specialist.
“That’s a snake,” Bourque said. He delved into the university’s reptile collections and came up with the vertebra of an anaconda. It was smaller but reasonably close in appearance to the fossil. Bloch, Hastings and the rest of the team began ransacking the Cerrejón specimens. Fresh expeditions visited La Puente to search for more pieces of fossil snake. Eventually the team collected 100 snake vertebrae from 28 different animals.
“We’d had some of them for years,” Bloch said. “My only excuse for not recognizing them is that I’ve picked up snake vertebrae before. And I said, ‘These can’t be snake vertebrae.’ It’s like somebody handed me a mouse skull the size of a rhinoceros and told me ‘That’s a mouse.’ It’s just not possible.”