BIGGEST SNAKE PHOTOS: Prehistoric Giant Discovered

 BIGGEST SNAKE PHOTOS: Prehistoric Giant Discovered
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Found in a Colombian coal mine, a vertebra from a 45-foot (14-meter) Titanoboa cerrejones dwarfs a similar bone from a 17-foot (5.2-meter) anaconda--currently the world's biggest, if not longest, snake species. (View anaconda pictures and facts.)

The ancient snake's giant size suggests that mean year-round temperatures in the tropics were several degrees warmer than they are today, according to a study that analyzed the relationships among a snake's body size, its metabolism, and the outside temperature.

"We were able to use the snake, if you will, as a giant fossil thermometer," said biologist Jason Head, lead author of the new study, to be published February 5, 2009, in the journal Nature.

--Ted Chamberlain, based on reporting by John Roach

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—Photograph by Ray Carson, courtesy UF Photography
 
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