WUFT News

Giant snake fossils come to UF museum

By on January 25th, 2013

A 50-foot snake is currently residing in The Florida Museum of Natural History.

Visitors to the museum through Aug. 11, can see the Titanoboa fossil exhibit, featuring this snake, and other 60-million-year-old fossils collected from Colombia. Scientists at the Florida Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian and the University of Nebraska worked together to find fossils of giant prehistoric snakes.

This exhibit features the most complete skeleton of a Titanoboa found to date.

When people come to see the giant snake they’ll get to learn about how the rainforests formed and what the world was like 60 million years ago when the planet was much warmer than it is today, said Jonathan Bloch, associate curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

“That may have some relevance for us as we think about the future,” Bloch said.

Bloch said he heard people were finding leaf fossils in the Cerrejon coal mine, which influenced him to travel to South America, eventually leading him to find the fossils.

“When I heard that leaves were being found, I saw this as an opportunity to see if we could find the animals that would have lived in the forest 60 million years ago,” Bloch said.

He found thousands of bones from new species, such as giant turtles, crocodiles and the Titanoboa, a giant snake related to an anaconda and boa.

“That was the start of a long adventure down in Cerrejon,” he said.

Darcie McMahon, exhibit director at the Florida Museum of Natural History, said they’re trying to give the visitors the same experience a scientist has and gear the event toward all ages.

“Anybody who walks through the front door is going to have a good time here,” McMahon said.

She said this will be the first and only time the fossils will be open to the public because the fossils are too fragile to travel.

“So you got to come to Gainesville to see the real thing,” she said.

Bloch said the museum is still working on the project, and fossils are currently being shipped to the museum.  The next shipment, traveling from Panama, will arrive in a couple of weeks.

“It’s the only window we have back to 60 million years ago in tropical South America, and it’s a big window,” he said.

The event is $6 for adults, $5 for adults who are Florida residents, and $4.50 for 3- to 5-year-old children.

Audreyanna Loguerre wrote this story online


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