Saturday, November 17, 2012

Titanoboa: Monster Snake

Where: Natural History Museum

When: through January 6, 2013

I took the morning off on Thursday, and saw several different exhibits.  The number of shows closing in January is quite large (I've noticed over the years that this is often the case), and since I'm taking a fitness class three days a week, that eats into my time for seeing shows.  Add in the holidays, with their inevitable gatherings, and I was fearful I might miss something!  Now, I've got a manageable number left to see, so unless the Smithsonian adds a lot of shows between now and the end of the year, I should be able to bring you news of everything with no problem.

My first stop was the Natural History Museum to see Titanoboa, or a model of him/her, anyway.  The story of how the fossils of this enormous snake were found is quite interesting, but I'll let you read about it at the exhibit, or watch it on the Smithsonian Channel (available on YouTube).  The Reader's Digest Condensed Version of the story is that scientists were excavating in Colombia and found what they thought were crocodile vertebrae.  They sent them to Florida, where other scientists were examining them, and it was discovered that some of the bones were actually from the largest known snake in world history.  Modern snakes are nothing in comparison; this thing was longer than a school bus and weighed more than ten heavyweight wrestlers.

The curators have set up the show very nicely - in the front, there's lots of information about the dig, and the discovery; it's not until you get to the very back that you see the model they've constructed of the snake itself.  Big is not the word.  I was reminded of the basilisk from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  I'm not afraid of snakes and have nothing against them, but I really would not want to encounter a live version of this monster!

Verdict: Don't miss this opportunity to learn about the creatures of the rain forest in the Paleocene Era, witness the cooperation among scientists to come to conclusions about their findings and see a model of the biggest snake ever.

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