Snakeasaurus! Missouri S&T grad makes a BIG discovery

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Illustration by Jason Bourque, University of Florida

Carlos Jaramillo looking for Snakeasaurus

Carlos Jaramillo (far left), Missouri S&T alumnus. Photo submitted

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The hefty vertebrae of Titanoboa (right) dwarfs that of a modern anaconda. Photo by Jason Head and John Bloch, University of Florida

As miners dig deeper and deeper into an open coal pit in Colombia, millions of years of history are displaced. On a fossil-hunting expedition to one of these pits in 2006, Carlos Jaramillo’s team found some big bones that belonged to a super-sized creature.
Sixty million years ago, not long after the dinosaurs died out, the tropics were warmer than they are today. And the creatures, though not dinosaurs, were bigger. Jaramillo, who earned a master’s degree at Missouri S&T in 1995, is a scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. He figured the vertebrae he found belonged to a massive crocodile.
“Two years later, a student compared the vertebrae to the skeleton of a modern anaconda,” says Jaramillo. “Then we thought, ‘ah, yes, we have a big snake!'”

This constrictor, now considered to be the largest snake to have ever slithered the Earth, would have made a modern day anaconda look like a glorified earthworm. Jaramillo says his team actually ended up finding the fossils of 28 different snakes, ranging in size from 40 to 50 feet long with a weight in the neighborhood of 2,500-pounds.

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