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David Bricker
University Communications

Last modified: Monday, August 30, 2010

Enormous extinct snake is the star of a new IU Bloomington geology exhibit

Aug. 30, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Earth's largest snake on record is now on display as part of a special exhibit at Indiana University Bloomington's Geology Building.

Giant boine snake

Jason Bourque, University of Florida

This artist's rendering of Titanoboa cerrejonensis demonstrates the great snake's size. It is anticipated the boa spent much of its life in or near water.

Print-Quality Photo

Well, the entire snake isn't present, but rather a cast of the original 60-million-year-old, foot-wide vertebra from Titanoboa cerrejonensis. The boa constrictor is believed to have measured 43 feet from snout to tail tip and to have weighed 2,500 pounds.

Paleontologist David Polly was the coauthor of a paper in Nature last year that reported the discovery of the bus-long constrictor, a true behemoth that would have had no trouble consuming the larger reptiles, fish and mammals of its day.

This is the first time a cast of the vertebra fossil has been displayed in the state of Indiana.

"At its greatest width, the snake would have come up to about your hips," said Polly, who helped identify the position of the vertebra that, in turn, allowed scientists to estimate the snake's size.

The exhibit is located on the west end of Geology's first floor (1001 E. 10th St.) and can be visited during normal business hours, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The exhibit was organized by Professor Emeritus of Geological Sciences Donald Hattin and is sponsored by the IU Bloomington Geological Sciences Department and the Indiana Geological Survey. Polly contributed the Titanoboa vertebra cast, which is featured as "Rock of the Month." Included are exhibits on fossilization, dinosaurs and mammal fossils, geodes, and other geological phenomena. The Titanoboa exhibit will be viewable until Oct. 1, 2010.

Polly will give a talk, "Hip-deep in giant snakes: Titanoboa and temperature in the Paleocene," at 4:00 p.m. on Sept. 13 (Geology Bldg. 143) as part of a Geological Sciences seminar series. The lecture is free and open to the public, particularly enthusiasts of paleontology, paleoclimatology, and snakes.

To speak with David Polly or to learn more about the exhibit, please contact David Bricker, University Communications, at 812-856-9035 or