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The giant snake that stalked the Earth

A recently discovered prehistoric monster snake provides answers about the past - and raises questions for the future.
Around 58 million years ago a monstrous snake slithered out of the swampy jungles of South America and began a reign of terror.

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UF study names new ancient crocodile relative from the land of Titanoboa

In a new study appearing Sept. 15 in the journal Palaeontology, University of Florida researchers describe a new 20-foot extinct species discovered in the same Colombian coal mine with Titanoboa, the world's largest snake. The findings help scientists better understand the diversity of animals that occupied the oldest known rainforest ecosystem, which had higher temperatures than today, and could be useful for understanding the impacts of a warmer climate in the future.
The 60-million-year-old freshwater relative to modern crocodiles is the first known land animal from the Paleocene New World tropics specialised for eating fish, meaning it competed with Titanoboa for food. But the giant snake could have consumed its competition, too, researchers say.

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A 60-million-year-old relative of crocodiles described this week by University of Florida researchers in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology was likely a food source for Titanoboa, the largest snake the world has ever known.
Working with scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, paleontologists from the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus found fossils of the new species of ancient crocodile in the Cerrejon Formation in northern Colombia. The site, one of the worlds largest open-pit coal mines, also yielded skeletons of the giant, boa constrictor-like Titanoboa, which measured up to 45 feet long. The study is the first report of a fossil crocodyliform from the same site.

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Plant fossils give first real picture of earliest Neotropical rainforests
A team of researchers including a University of Florida palaeontologist has used a rich cache of plant fossils discovered in Colombia to provide the first reliable evidence of how Neotropical rainforests looked 58 million years ago.
Researchers from the Smithsonian Institution and UF, among others, found that many of the dominant plant families existing in today's Neotropical rainforests - including legumes, palms, avocado and banana - have maintained their ecological dominance despite major changes in South America's climate and geological structure.
The study, which appears this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined more than 2,000 megafossil specimens, some nearly 10 feet long, from the Cerrejón Formation in northern Colombia. The fossils are from the Palaeocene epoch, which occurred in the 5- to 7-million-year period following the massive extinction event responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs.

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A new study has suggested that the world's biggest snake lived in the earliest known "modern" rain forest some 60 million years ago.
According to a report in National Geographic News, the study is based on more than 2,000 fossil leaves recently discovered in Colombia's Cerrejon coal mine-the same place where scientists had found fossils of Titanoboa cerrejonesis earlier this year.

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First Neotropical Rainforest Was Home Of The Titanoboa
Smithsonian researchers working in Colombia's Cerrejón coal mine have unearthed the first megafossil evidence of a neotropical rainforest. Titanoboa, the world's biggest snake, lived in this forest 58 million years ago at temperatures 3-5 C warmer than in rainforests today, indicating that rainforests flourished during warm periods.

"Modern neotropical rainforests, with their palms and spectacular flowering-plant diversity, seem to have come into existence in the Paleocene epoch, shortly after the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Pollen evidence tells us that forests before the mass extinction were quite different from our fossil rainforest at Cerrejón. We find new plant families, large, smooth-margined leaves and a three-tiered structure of forest floor, understory shrubs and high canopy" - Carlos Jaramillo, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Source Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute


-- Edited by Blobrana on Wednesday 14th of October 2009 03:51:27 PM

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