Large Snakes

ramonmercado

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US announces ban on giant snakes

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/bre ... ing70.html

Tue, Jan 17, 2012

The United States announced a ban on Burmese pythons today, after years of unsuccessful efforts to eradicate the giant snakes from the Everglades National Park in Florida.

US interior secretary Ken Salazar, who has championed the ban, said it would take effect within about 60 days and make it illegal to import the snakes or transport them across state lines.

Mr Salazar announced the measure at a news conference at a flood control pumping station in a corner of the Everglades just outside Miami, where he was joined by Florida senator Ben Nelson and two senior park and Florida Wildlife Commission officials as they held aloft a recently captured four-meter python.

"The action were taking today is a milestone in the protection of the Everglades," Mr Salazar said.

Biologists say most pythons in the Everglades are thought to have been released there by their owners once they realised that the "pets" can grow from just 30cm (12ins) to 3.6 metres (12ft) long within their first two years of life.

In addition to the Burmese python, which has become one of the most notorious invasive species in US history, the ban affects the yellow anaconda and northern and southern African pythons.

Invasive species in subtropical parts of Florida include dragon-like Nile Monitor lizards and raccoon-sized African rats.

But Burmese pythons, which are native to southeast Asia, have become the stuff of legend in the Everglades since they were first sighted in the wildlife haven in the mid-1970s.

With their razor-sharp teeth, they have been known to eat practically anything that moves in the park, from small mammals to large wading birds. Last year, a 4.8-metre (15ft 7in) Burmese was found with a huge bulge from a recently consumed 34kg deer.

Compounding eradication problems, however, the bone-crushing snakes have also bred in the wild in the savanna and steamy swamps of the Everglades.

One of the creatures was aggressive enough to try devouring a 1.8 metre (6ft) alligator in the park in 2005. The alligator was believed to have been dead already and the snake also died trying to digest it.
 

oldrover

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With a 'Giant snakes' thread this one seems a bit of an underachiever.
 

ramonmercado

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oldrover said:
With a 'Giant snakes' thread this one seems a bit of an underachiever.

Yeah, I wqas wondering about putting it on the Snakes thread bit there are a few pythons here.
 

oldrover

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Just adapt the title to 'Large illegal Snakes' that'd give it more pizzazz.
 

Jerry_B

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Just to show that there are examples in the fossil record...

The giant snake that stalked the Earth

A recently discovered prehistoric monster snake provides answers about the past - and raises questions for the future.

Around 58 million years ago a monstrous snake slithered out of the swampy jungles of South America and began a reign of terror.

Weighing more than a ton and measuring 14m (approximately 50 feet) the giant reptile could swallow a whole crocodile without showing a bulge. But a few years ago scientists never even knew it existed.

"Never in your wildest dreams do you expect to find a 14-metre boa constrictor. The biggest snake today is half that size," says Dr Carlos Jaramillo, a scientist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and part of the team that made the discovery.

'World of lost reptiles'

Thought to be a distant relative of the anaconda and boa constrictor, the snake - named "titanoboa" - was not venomous. Instead it crushed its prey with the constricting force of 400lbs per sq inch - the equivalent of lying under the weight of one and a half times the Brooklyn Bridge.

The fossils were exposed by excavation at the massive Cerrejon open-face coal mine in northern Colombia. In 2002 scientists had discovered at that site the remains of a tropical rainforest from the Palaeocene epoch - perhaps the planet's first.

As well as fossilised leaves and plants, they unearthed reptiles so big they defied imagination.

"What we found was a giant world of lost reptiles - turtles the size of a kitchen table and the biggest crocodiles in the history of fossil records," says Jonathan Bloch, an expert in vertebrate evolution at the University of Florida.

They also found the vertebrae of a colossal snake.

"After the extinction of the dinosaurs, this animal, the titanoboa, was the largest predator on the surface of the planet for at least 10 million years," says Dr Bloch. "This was a major animal in any sense of the imagination."
Search for skulls

But scientists needed the snake's skull to get a full picture of how it looked, what food it ate and how it might be related to modern species. Last year a team set out to find it, with little expectation of success. Because the bones of a snake's skull are so fragile, few survive.

"Unlike our skulls, snake skulls aren't fused together. Instead they're connected with tissue," says Dr Jason Head, a snake specialist from the University of Nebraska.

"When the animal dies the connective tissue decomposes and all the individual bones are generally dispersed. They're very thin and fragile too and often get destroyed. Because titanoboa is so big and the skull bones are so large, it's one of the few snakes that do make it into the fossil record."

To their amazement the team recovered the remains of three skulls from which the reptile could be accurately reconstructed for the first time.

From that, they were able to get a better sense of how titanoboa lived and looked. A life-sized replica is now on display the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, and will begin a nationwide tour in 2013.

Aside from the excitement of discovering a new and enormous species of snake, the reptile can tell scientists a lot about the history of the earth's climate - and offer a glimpse of the possible effects of global warming today.

Snakes are unable to regulate their own temperature and depend on external heat to survive.

"We think the titanoboa became this large because it was much warmer on the equator after the dinosaurs died 60 million years ago," says Dr Bloch. "We think that's why reptiles in general were larger.

That ability to thrive in a warm climate could be relevant in the event that global temperatures rise according to the projections of climate scientists, Dr Bloch adds.

"It's evidence that eco-systems can thrive at temperatures of the levels that are being projected over the next one or two hundred years."

Return of titanoboa?

But the climate changes that produced titanoboa took millions of years. Scientists are less certain about the effects of sudden temperature change.

"Biology is amazingly adaptable. Changing climates and changing continents are the fuel of evolution. But things that happen very quickly can result in the types of change we might not view very positively," says Dr Bloch.

As well as being warmer, CO2 levels were also 50% higher during the period of the Cerrejon rainforest.

"One big lesson we are learning from the fossils in Cerrejon is that tropical plants and the eco-system in general have the ability to cope with high temperatures and high levels of CO2, another major concern with the current trend of global warming," says Dr Jaramillo.

"Perhaps the plants and animals of the tropics today already have the genetic ability to cope with global warming."

Does that mean the titanoboa could one day return?

"As the temperature increases you have the probability they will come back," says Dr Jaramillo. "But it takes geological time to develop a new species. It could take a million years - but perhaps they will!"

BBC Source
 

oldrover

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I'm surprised that a snake that size is feasible.
 

Jerry_B

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There have been alleged sightings of snakes larger than the one described in the above article. Colonel Fawcett claimed to have shot a 62-foot long snake in Brazil in 1907, for example.
 

ramonmercado

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Jerry_B said:
There have been alleged sightings of snakes larger than the one described in the above article. Colonel Fawcett claimed to have shot a 62-foot long snake in Brazil in 1907, for example.

Indeed, he disappeared in the Brazilian jungles in 1925. Eaten by a snake?
 

oldrover

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I hate to say this but I can't think of another way to put it, it's not the length that surprises me as much as the girth.
 

oldrover

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Indeed, he disappeared in the Brazilian jungles in 1925. Eaten by a snake?


Didn't someone confess to having eaten him because he'd upset them.
 

ramonmercado

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oldrover said:
Indeed, he disappeared in the Brazilian jungles in 1925. Eaten by a snake?


Didn't someone confess to having eaten him because he'd upset them.

No, they had an upset stomach afterwards.
 

Mythopoeika

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ramonmercado said:
oldrover said:
Indeed, he disappeared in the Brazilian jungles in 1925. Eaten by a snake?


Didn't someone confess to having eaten him because he'd upset them.

No, they had an upset stomach afterwards.

Must...resist...toilet jokes about 'Fawcett'...
 

rynner2

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Mythopoeika said:
Must...resist...toilet jokes about 'Fawcett'...
No, just let yourself go!

(and relax...) 8)
 

oldrover

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You see, this is exactly the sort of thing I was concerned about.
 

Mythopoeika

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disgruntledgoth said:
I would love to have a pet Titanboa lol

...for all of five minutes before it ate you...
 

ramonmercado

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Mythopoeika said:
disgruntledgoth said:
I would love to have a pet Titanboa lol

...for all of five minutes before it ate you...

It would develop a crush on her.

Fangs For the Memory on her gravestone.
 

disgruntledgoth

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Mythopoeika said:
disgruntledgoth said:
I would love to have a pet Titanboa lol

...for all of five minutes before it ate you...

our shoulders make it pretty difficult for a snake of any size to eat you, even if a snake was 30 feet, it would be physically able to hold a human, if it started eating you head first (as the usually do, apart from the occasional daft one I've seen who starts in the middle, or with a prey item in reverse) it would get to your shoulders, and not be able to open it's mouth wider, once it's mouth is already open, so, unless you're unlucky and it starts feet first, and assuming you manage to survive the constriction (trick is to relax as much as possible) then you might just get spat out
 

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Don't big snakes sometimes wrap round their prey to break up those nasty indigestible bones? Problem solved!
I think a 50 ft Titanoboa would certainly be able to swallow a human.
 

oldrover

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Hang on a minute don't snakes suffocate their prey by shrinking down to the size of their chests when they breathe out and hold it there, rather than actually crushing them. Hence the name constrictor rather than crusher.
 

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Apparently it is a bit of both. Squeezing someone/something tight enough so that is not able to breathe in again is going to exert some considerable pressure on the chest cavity so I would not be surprised if a couple of ribs were cracked at least. Dislocating a shoulder would probably be possible as well depending on where the coils are to make that bit go down easier as well.
 

lordmongrove

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Big constricors, who have trouble working their jaws over human shoulders, have been known to crish human scapulas together in 'concertina' effect in order to swallow them.
 

oldrover

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I was hoping you'd pop along and settle this. I didn't even know that anyone had been eaten by a Boa Constrictor. Any chance you can point me to the source of this.
 

Analis

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I remember that a FT issue had related something about a boy being eaten by a large python, in a southern african country. Now, don't ask me which one...
 

GNC

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Analis said:
I remember that a FT issue had related something about a boy being eaten by a large python, in a southern african country. Now, don't ask me which one...

That's right, wasn't there a horrible photo of the python with a boy-shaped lump halfway along its body?
 
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