Saturday, February 7, 2009

We’re All Boas on This Bus.

Bus-sized boa slithers into record books (from the British-based weekly science journal Nature)

PARIS (AFP) — Stunned scientists have found the fossilized remains of the world's greatest snake -- a record-busting serpent that was as long as a bus and snacked on crocodiles.
The boa-like behemoth, dubbed Titanoboa, ruled the tropical rainforests of what is now Colombia some 60 million years ago, at a time when the world was far hotter than now, they report in a study. The size of the snake's vertebrae suggest the beast weighed some 1.135 tonnes, in a range of 730 kilos (1,600 pounds) to 2.03 tonnes. And it measured 13 metres (42.7 feet) from nose to tail, in a range of 10.64-15 metres (34.6-48.75 feet), they estimate.
Jonathan Block, a vertebrate palaeontologist at the University of Florida, who co-led the work said “The snake that tried to eat Jennifer Lopez in the movie 'Anaconda' is not as big as the one we found."

"At its greatest width, the snake would have come up to about your hips," said David Polly, a geologist at the University of Indiana at Bloomington.

Ants from Mars, frogs the size of Border Collies, mine-sniffing rats, and all of a sudden a boa constrictor the size of a bus has scientists “stunned”?

We fret over Bernie Madoff, Joe the Plumber and Jessica Simpson’s waistline, while “stunned scientists” are uncovering the real treachery. It’s like one of those sci-fi movies from the fifties where only the little kid sees the giant cockroaches in the woods while the rest of the sleepy town mocks him on its way to the Fourth of July picnic. Sure, Hollywood told us, parade the flag down Main Street all you want – meanwhile the Soviets are poised to devour your children, America. Before you know it you’re up to your waist in 40-foot boa constrictors.

But the prize goes to vertebrate paleontologist Jonathan Block. It’s not enough for us to know the damn snake was the size of a bus. Jonathan has to tell us more about himself than we really need to know by comparing it to the snake that tried to eat Jennifer Lopez. Jonathan’s snake is bigger than that.

Good for Jonathan.