BY PAT SUMMERS
“Titanoboa” – the name says it all: giant squeezing snake. In Greek mythology, “Titans” were primordial giant gods, and the word has come to mean any person or thing of enormous size, strength, power, influence. Like a 48-foot long boa constrictor weighing more than a ton, with a manhole-size diameter.
New York’s Grand Central Station hosted this beast — in replica – for two days this week while it was in transit to Washington, DC. By the time you read this, the model of Titanoboa (“ty-tan-uh-BOH’-ah,” according to Yahoo.com) may be ensconced at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
Yes, it was all a promotion – a darn big one – for a museum exhibit and a TV documentary.
However, this colossal reptile really did live on earth – 60 million years ago. It swam and slithered its 2,500 pound way around when the world’s first known rain forest emerged and dinosaurs no longer ruled, LiveScience.com reports.
Discovered by scientists in an open-pit coal mine in Columbia in 2005, it was the largest snake ever discovered, as Thirteen.org succinctly put it. The paleontologists who found it also named it, publishing their discovery in 2009.
People who saw the scientifically accurate model in New York dismissed their chances against such a snake, but they needn’t have worried. Humans to Titanoboa might equate with ants to humans: not even in the picture.
A Smithsonian video online pits the snake against a T-Rex, even thought the two “killer carnivores” actually lived in different times and on separate continents. (The winner wasn’t predicted, only the likely attack modes of each animal.)
The Titanoboa killed by constriction, then swallowed its prey whole. One estimate was that it squeezed with a crushing 400 pounds per square inch of pressure – equivalent to being crushed with the weight of three Eiffel Towers.
“Big” was the name of the game for many prehistoric animals, and the reasons that was so are interestingly spelled out in CSMonitor.com. Predictably, Titanoboa wins in comparison to a modern snake, such as the world’s longest reticulate python — little more than half the length of its ancient relative. Reputed to be the world’s heaviest snake, the green anaconda is only about a tenth of the Titanoboa’s weight.
The Smithsonian exhibition featuring the Titanoboa will run from March 30-January 6, 2013. Focusing on the giant reptile’s discovery and reconstruction processes, Smithsonian Channel premieres a documentary, “Titanoboa: Monster Snake,” on April 1. No foolin’.