Titanoboa, pronounced /taɪˌtænəˈboʊ.ə/ ty-TAN-ə-BOH-ə, meaning "titanic boa," is a genus of snake that lived approximately 60 to 58 million years ago, in the Paleocene epoch, a 10-million-year period immediately following the dinosaur extinction event. The only known species is the Titanoboa cerrejonensis, the largest snake ever discovered, which supplanted the previous record holder, Gigantophis.
By comparing the sizes and shapes of its fossilized vertebrae to those of extant snakes, researchers estimated that the T. cerrejonensis reached a maximum length of 12 to 15 m (40 to 50 ft), weighed about 1,135 kg (2,500 lb), and measured about 1 m (3 ft) in diameter at the thickest part of the body.
Comparison with living snakes The largest eight of the 28 T. cerrejonensis snakes found were between 12 and 15 m (40 and 50 ft) in length. In comparison, the largest extant snakes are the Python reticulatus, which measures up to 8.7 metres (29 ft) long, and the anaconda, which measures up to 5.21 metres (17 ft) long and is considered the heaviest snake on Earth. At the other end of the scale, the smallest extant snake is Leptotyphlops carlae with a length of about 10 centimetres (4 in).
In 2009, the fossils of 28 individual T. cerrejonensis were announced to have been found from the Cerrejón Formation in the coal mines of Cerrejón in La Guajira, Colombia. Prior to this discovery, few fossils of Paleocene-epoch vertebrates had been found in ancient tropical environments of South America. The snake was discovered on an expedition by a team of international scientists led by Jonathan Bloch, a University of Florida vertebrate paleontologist, and Carlos Jaramillo, a paleobotanist from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.
Because snakes are ectothermic, the discovery implies that the tropics, the creature's habitat, must have been warmer than previously thought, averaging approximately 30 °C (90 °F). The warmer climate of the Earth during the time of T. cerrejonensis allowed cold-blooded snakes to attain much larger sizes than modern snakes. Today, larger ectothermic animals are found in the tropics, where it is hottest, and smaller ones are found further from the equator.