Editor's Summary

5 February 2009

It's a long story

The discovery of the world's largest known snake — living around 60 million years ago in tropical South America — has important implications for our understanding of the evolution of global climate. The fossil, found in northeastern Columbia — is of a relative of the boa constrictor; it was 13 metres long (compared to about 10 metres for the longest live snakes reported) and would have weighed more than a tonne. A snake this size would have required mean annual temperatures between 30 and 34 ° C, higher than the tropics today. This calls into question the idea that the climate system has a 'thermostat' that regulates tropical temperatures.

AuthorsMaking the paper: Jason Head & Jonathan Bloch

Giant snake fossils point to steamy ancient tropical climate.


News and ViewsClimate change: Snakes tell a torrid tale

The discovery in Colombia of a giant species of fossil snake is news in itself. But a wider, more controversial inference to be drawn is that tropical climate in the past was not buffered from global warming.

Matthew Huber


LetterGiant boid snake from the Palaeocene neotropics reveals hotter past equatorial temperatures

Jason J. Head, Jonathan I. Bloch, Alexander K. Hastings, Jason R. Bourque, Edwin A. Cadena, Fabiany A. Herrera, P. David Polly & Carlos A. Jaramillo