These five-year-olds know a thing or two about snakes, but what do they know about titanoboa?
In the pantheon of predators, it's one of the greatest discoveries since the T-Rex: a snake 48 feet long, weighing in at 2,500 pounds. Uncovered from a treasure trove of fossils in a Colombian coal mine, this serpent is revealing a lost world of giant creatures. Travel back to the period following the extinction of dinosaurs and encounter this monster predator.
Jason Head is a vertebrate paleontologist and herpetologist specializing in the evolution of reptiles and its relationship to climate change. In addition to researching the world's largest snake, the 60 million year old Titanoboa cerrejonensis, Jason described Sanajeh indicus, a fossil snake that preserves evidence of predation on baby dinosaurs, and developed a method to estimate environmental changes from the reptile fossil record.
Jason has conducted fieldwork in Colombia, Uruguay, Pakistan, India, Jordan, Tanzania, Mali, and North America. He is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he resides with a python named Socrates and his fiance, anthropologist Naomi Leite.
Jonathan Bloch specializes in the evolution of vertebrates following the extinction of the dinosaurs. He has conducted paleontological fieldwork in Egypt, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Colombia, Panama, and throughout North America. Together with Carlos Jaramillo, Jonathan led collecting expeditions to the Cerrejon coal mine, where multiple new species were discovered, including the world's largest snake, Titanoboa.
Since 2004, Jonathan has been an Associate Professor at the University of Florida as well as an Associate Curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History. He also serves as a Program Chair for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology and is Co-Editor of the journal Paleobiology.
Fabiany Herrera is a graduate student at the University of Florida and has worked at both the Smithsonian's Tropical Research Center in Panama and the National Museum of Natural History. He studies paleobotany, and is interested in the evolutionary origins of the South American rainforest. He uses plant microfossils to try to pinpoint the evolutionary origin of these environments, looking for the mechanisms that produced the high species diversity of the tropics.
In the Cerrejon mine, where the fossils of Titanoboa were discovered, Fabiany found some of the first fossil evidence of 58-million-year-old tropical plants, and he is now using it to test his hypotheses.
Alex Hastings is a graduate student at the University of Florida who studies vertebrate paleontology with Dr. Carlos Jaramillo and Dr. Jonathon Bloch. The main focus of his work is crocodilians (i.e. crocodiles and alligators,) and he was the lead researcher who discovered the fossilized remains of a 20-foot-long crocodile in the Cerrejon coal mine where the bones of Titanoboa were also found. He played a major role in the fieldwork, and he was, in fact, one of the first to realize that some of the fossilized bones appeared to belong to a giant snake.
Alex is now completing his Ph.D. dissertation on the new crocodilian species that he discovered in Colombia.
Carlos Jaramillo is a staff scientist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. As a paleobotanist, he studies ancient vegetation and fossilized plants, and most of his research focuses on changes in tropical biodiversity over time. He is also interested in biostratigraphy, or using fossil evidence in different layers of rock to track geological time, and is developing new high-resolution methods for the study of Cretaceous-Cenozoic biostratigraphy of low latitudes.
A native of Colombia, Carlos has worked and studied in Colombia, Missouri, and Florida, and now lives in Panama with his wife, biologist Maria Ines Barreto and his son Camilo.
Edwin Cadena is a graduate student at North Carolina State University and has worked at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. He studies vertebrates, and is interested in the evolution of turtles. He uses fossils, proteins, and bone histology to understand molecular evolutionary rates, trends in proteins degradation and modification, and the biogeography and evolution of turtles.
In the Cerrejon mine, Edwin has spent several years collecting, finding large fresh-water turtles, among the biggest ever recorded in geological history.
P. David Polly is a vertebrate paleontologist at Indiana University-Bloomington and a Research Associate at the Field Museum in Chicago. His research is on trait-based community dynamics in vertebrates, especially the role of changing Cenozoic climates and environments to the composition of communities and the evolution of traits. He is interested in phylogenetics, phylogeography, and genetics of vertebrates. David is committed to keeping scientific publication under academic control. He is currently an editor for Palaeontology and Palaeontologia Electronica, and has also worked actively to develop scientific internet publishing for the University of California Museum of Paleontology, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, and the Natural History Museum.
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