Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nagas in the News: Bus-Sized Snakes

Ancient fossil find: a snake that could eat a cow!
Malcolm Ritter (AP)

NEW YORK – Never mind the 40-foot snake that menaced Jennifer Lopez in the 1997 movie "Anaconda." Not even Hollywood could match a new discovery from the ancient world.

Fossils from northeastern Colombia reveal the biggest snake ever discovered: a behemoth that stretched 42 to 45 feet long, reaching more than 2,500 pounds.

"This thing weighs more than a bison and is longer than a city bus," enthused snake expert Jack Conrad of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, who was familiar with the find.

"It could easily eat something the size of a cow. A human would just be toast immediately."

"If it tried to enter my office to eat me, it would have a hard time squeezing through the door," reckoned paleontologist Jason Head of the University of Toronto Missisauga.

Actually, the beast probably munched on ancient relatives of crocodiles in its rainforest home some 58 million to 60 million years ago, he said.

Head is senior author of a report on the find in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

(The same issue carries another significant report from the distant past. Scientists said they'd found the oldest known evidence of animal life, remnants of steroids produced by sponges more than 635 million years ago in Oman.) More>>
PHOTOS: 1. Modern boa (KNBC News); 2. artist's rendering shows the colossal prehistoric snake Titanoboa cerrejonensis, whose remains were found in a Colombian coal mine (Jason Bourque, University of Florida/Handout/Reuters).

Behemoths of the Land and Sea?

Sea "monsters," like those of the sky (dragons) and land (serpents) may not be as farfetched as once thought: "Ancient Whales Gave Birth on Land"
Jeanna Bryner (

More than 47 million years ago, a whale was about to give birth to her young...on land. That's according to skeletal remains of a pregnant cetacean whose fetus was positioned head-down as is the case for land mammals but not aquatic whales. The teeth of the fetus were so well-developed that researchers who analyzed the fossils think the baby would have been born within days, had its mom not died. More>>

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