Introduction to Titanoboa

The Titanoboa is an extinct group of snakes, these were considered to be the largest snakes to reside on the planet. Titanoboa is generally associated with fiction and folklore until very recently, it was the turning point of the study of biology when the fossil of the biggest Titanoboa was discovered. The Titanoboa fossil is the major source for obtaining the Titanoboa information. This article focuses on the basic understanding of the organism called Titanoboa, it also lays a general concept of classification of the organism and the habitat of the organism. The article also deals with the discovery of the Titanoboa fossil.

About Titanoboa

The Titanoboa can be described as an extinct species of the snake, they were classified as reptiles because snakes are the major group of the reptile family. The Titanoboa is considered to be the largest reptile to have levied on the planet. All the study of Titanoboa is based on the fossil and the evolutionary relationship derived through the tools of phylogenetics.  All the Titanoboa information gained till now relies deeply on the fossil. The fossil of the species was discovered recently in the year 2009. The fossil was found in Colombia, it was identified that there were 28 Titanoboa fossils that were excavated from the same place. 


The scientific name of the snake is Titanoboa cerrejonensis, it was revealed through fossil study that these snakes were present on earth about 55 million years ago, (55 to 60 million years ago). The biggest Titanoboa size can range up to 13 to 15 meters. They are classified as vertebrates and considered to be relative to boa and anacondas. Though it is still not clear which of these two is the descendant or more closely related to the big snake fossil species of Titanoboa. 

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Taxonomy of the Titanoboa

The taxonomic classification of any organism is done to provide a clear picture of the evolution, adaptation, and relation of the organism with other species. The taxonomic classification provides us with the Titanoboa information required to know important evolutionary and phylogenetic details about Titanoboa. According to the taxonomic classification more specifically the binomial nomenclature system of an organism the scientific name of the species is given as Titanoboa cerrejonensis. The big snake fossil depicts that the organism consists of the vertebral column, thus they belong to the vertebrate category. The taxonomic classification provided below gives a basic understanding of the extinct species.


Titanoboa belongs to the kingdom Animalia, since the fossil of the snake depicts the presence of the vertebral column more commonly known as the spinal cord, they are further classified into the phylum named Chordata. This phylum contains all the organisms that have completely developed vertebral columns. The Titanoboa was further classified into the class. They belong to the class Reptilia. The class Reptilia can be considered as a  paraphyletic grouping of the taxonomic classification. This class comprises all amniotes except mammals and aves. 


Amniotes are the common name given to the animal that has a protecting layer covering the embryo, the protective layer is termed the amnion.  Since the Titanoboa belongs to the family it is believed that like all the reptiles they lay and the eggs had the covering of the amnion to protect it from environmental stress. 

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The class is then further divided into order. The Titanoboa belonged to the order called Squamata. Squamata consists of all the reptiles that have characteristic features of scales on the body. The order is more commonly needed as a scaled reptile, this consists of the reptiles like the crocodile, snakes, lizards, and worm lizards. The order Squamata is considered to be the largest order of reptiles, another interesting fact about the Squamata order is that they constitute both living and extinct species of reptiles like crocodiles (living species) and Titanoboa as (extinct species). The order is further divided into the family Boidae. 


This family of snakes includes boa and reptiles, since the Titanoboa belong to this family they are considered as relatives of boas. The family is the classification group of the biggest snakes like green anaconda thus it is only appropriate to classify Titanoboa (the biggest Titanoboa snake) to this family. The family is further classified as the genus. The genus of the snake is termed the Titanoboa, they are further classified into species the biggest snake, Titanoboa belongs to the species of T. cerrejonensis. The binomial scientific name of the organism is thus known as the Titanoboa cerrejonensis.

Morphology of the Titanoboa

The Titanoboa morphology is described on the basis of the Titanoboa information gained from the study of the Titanoboa fossil. The average size of the Titanoboa can range from 13 meters which are approximately  42. Feet. The biggest Tiatanoboa can range up to 15 to 17 meters in length. The length of the Titanoboa is extrapolated from the length of the vertebrates of the fossil, each vertebral column is placed end to end to give an approximate length of the extinct species. 


It is believed that the females of the species were larger than their male counterparts, it also indicates that the size difference will lead to clear sexual dimorphism between the species. Sexual dimorphism is the property of clear morphological differentiation between the male and the female of the species. The body mass or weight of the Tiatnoboa is estimated to be 1,135 kg which is approximately about 1.25 tons. Another interesting fact about Titanoboa is the presence of scaly skin. This Titanoboa information is gained from the taxonomic classification, the Titanoboas were placed in the Squamata order which is known for their characteristic feature of the presence of scaled skin on the body. 


The fossil of Titanoboa indicated that there were approximately 250 vertebrate columns present in the body. There were 28 fossils of Tiatanoboa recovered from the fossil out of which had a complete skull structure, the others were partially or completely damaged due to some geological and environmental stress. The one with intact skull structure demonstrated that the extinct species of the snake had the largest skull,l among reptiles, and a completely developed nervous system. 

Reproduction

Since the Tiatonoboa are classified as reptiles, it is believed that they followed sexual reproduction. They followed internal fertilization common to the reptiles. Internal fertilization can be defined as the formation of a zygote by mixing of egg and sperm inside the body of the female of the species. Much about the reproduction pattern of the Titanoboa is still not known. Another interesting fact about Titanoboa is that they are classified as Amniotes. The amniotes are the organism that has a protective covering around the egg or embryo. The protective covering is commonly known as the amnion. Since all snakes generally reproduce by laying eggs it is the same for the Teatnoboa but whether they lay eggs and provide parental care or the eggs are carried by females inside their bodies until they are hatched as seen in ovoviviparous animals is still unclear.

Thermoregulation

Thermoregulation can be defined as the process of regulation of the body temperature according to the environment. Since Titanoboa is considered the largest snake, a member of the reptilia family, it is thought they are ectothermic. Exothermic organisms can be defined as the organism which regulates the temperature of the body by utilizing the environmental temperature, they do not have internal thermoregulation physiology which is based on the metabolic process. Titanoboa is also considered to be poikilotherms, these can be defined as cold-blooded organism. The thermoregulation of the Titanoboa information links the evolutionary details to the climate of the earth during that period, this is important to take into consideration because the enormous size of the creature can be explained by this correlation. 


As the Titanoboa is considered to be poikilotherms they need external environmental heat to maintain the growth rate and the proper functioning of the body, since they are very large the biggest Tiatnoboa can range up to forty-two feet, they would have needed enough environmental which suggest that the time period during which they lived was about 55 to 60 million years ago in the Paleocene era. The Paleocene era has the significant characteristics of high environmental temperature supporting the claim of survival of such extraordinary creatures during this time. 

Diet

The fact about Titanoboa was the nature of the snake, they were classified as the carnivore, even with their large size they are not most widely accepted as an apex predator, it is mainly because of the restricted habitat and comparatively slow speed of the snake against the competitor species. The diet of the Titanoboa mainly included crocodiles. The other animals that were the prey of the Titanoboa included the other snakes like boa constrictors, cobras, pythons,  fishes, turtles, and others.

Habitat

The habitat of the Titanoboa can be explained on the basis of the location at which the big snake fossil was discovered. The Titanoboa information gained through the fossil location explains about Titanoboa habitat. It is believed that these snakes liked to live in warm climates, as during the geological time during which these snakes were found the climate of the earth was warm, they lived about 55 to 60 million years ago. It is also believed they preferred living in waters similar to their present-day relative known as the anacondas. The fossil remains were found in Columbia in the Cerrejón formation. The coal mines are formed from deposits left by an extensive Paleocene swamp, the Paleocene can be defined as the geological time period. Titanoboa information received from the fossil also suggests that they lived in the first tropical forest formed in South America. 

Distribution of Fossil

The fossil of the Titanoboa was first discovered in the coalfields located in Columbia, they were discovered by a group of palaeontologists led by Jonathan Bloch who was then working at the University of Florida. The fossils were excavated from the Cerrejón coal mine, which is situated west of the mouth of Lake Maracaibo.  The team found the remains and intact fossils of about 30 Titanoboa, they were mostly of the adults of the group, some of the fossils were much smaller in size than they were thought to be of the juvenile or young members of the Titanoboa. To commemorate the discovery of the biggest Titanoboa a life-size replica of the organism was created at the Smithsonian exhibit. 

Living Relatives

The taxonomical classification and the fossil evidence of the Titanoboa suggest that the organism was related to the present day anacondas and boas, it is still under debate that which of these animals was more closely related to the extinct Titanoboa snakes. The Titanoboa share the family with these organisms, all the three organisms belong to the same family known as Boidae. The members of the Boidae family are found across North, Central, and South America, as well as the Caribbean. The other members of this family and living relative of the Titanoboa are found across the continent of Europe and parts of  Asia, Northern, Central and East Africa, Madagascar, the Arabian Peninsula, Central and southwestern Asia, India and Sri Lanka, the Moluccas, and New Guinea through to Melanesia and Samoa. 


The unique characteristic common to all the living relatives and Titanoboa is the absence of venom, all the snakes of this family are considered to be non-venomous. 

Conclusion

The Titanoboa is the largest dead or alive species of snakes that lived on the earth. The biggest Titanoboa can grow up to 42 feet. They are estimated to have lived around 55 to 60 million years ago, they belong to the reptilia family, the scientific name of the organism is Titanoboa cerrejonensis. They share evolutionary and phylogenetic relationships between the family called Boidae, the members of this family include boas and anacondas. Both the boas and anacondas are thought to share the relation with Tiatnoboa but which of them is more closely related is still debatable. 


The fossil of the species was found in 2009 in the Cerrejón coal mine of Columbia. There 28 fossils were excavated from the coal mines. The fossil study of the Titanoboa showed that they were the creatures of a warm climate, they are carnivores. The diet of the Titanoboa mainly consisted of crocodiles, but they also ate fish, turtles, and other snakes like python and cobra. There are not many details about the reproduction pattern and attack mechanism of the reptile; it is indeed an extraordinary creature that lived on the planet.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q.1. What is the Diet of Titanoboa?

Ans- Titanoboas were carnivores. The diet of Titanoboa included crocodiles, pythons, cobras, turtles, and large fishes. 

Q.2. What is the Body Size of the Biggest Titanoboa?

Ans- The Titanoboa can grow up to 13 meters which are approximately 42. feet. It is interesting to note about Titanoboa that the females of the species were larger than the male of the species.

Q.3. Name Some of the Living Relatives of the Titanoboa.

Ans- The living relative of the Titanoboa includes the boa family and anacondas. Both these organisms share some or other similarities with the extinct big snake fossil but the closest relative of the Tiatnoboa is still debatable.