What Did the Largest Snake Ever Eat to Feed its 2,500 Pound Body?

Written by Colby Maxwell
Updated: November 11, 2022
Image Credit Dotted Yeti/Shutterstock.com
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Think You Know Snakes?
Key Points:
  • The largest snakes living today–reticulated pythons and green anacondas–feed on small mammals such as birds, fish, and rodents, but sometimes go for larger prey like pigs, capybara, deer, and large birds.
  • The prehistoric Titanboa is thought to be the largest snake that ever existed, reaching a length of 40-50 feet and weighing an astounding 2,500 pounds!
  • Scientists believe that the Titanboa was piscivorous, meaning that fish was its main dietary staple.

There are a lot of large snakes in the world, a few of which have the potential to actually eat humans. Among the largest species out there are the reticulated python (the longest) and the infamous green anaconda (the heaviest). The anaconda is so famous that movies and tv shows have included them, although many of their cameos are quite exaggerated. Still, it’s wild to consider that a snake has the potential to reach hundreds of pounds and is alive today. While the anaconda and reticulated python are large, they aren’t the largest snake to have ever lived. In fact, they aren’t even close! Today, we are going to learn about Titanoboa and learn what it took to feed this massive reptile.

Let’s get started!

What is the largest species of snake to ever live?

What Did the Largest Snake Ever Eat to Feed its 2,500 Pound Body?
Titanoboa was the largest species of snake to have ever lived.

Dotted Yeti/Shutterstock.com

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The largest species of snake to have ever lived (that we are aware of) is a specimen named Titanoboa.

Titanoboa wasn’t just big; it was truly gigantic. In fact, the largest snakes alive today absolutely pale in comparison to how large this prehistoric snake was. From the fossil evidence, it’s believed that Titanoboa was between 40 and 50 feet long and weighed over 2,500 lbs. For reference, the largest snakes to have ever been unofficially documented in human history topped out between 200 and 400 lbs. Titanoboa was at least 5 times that.

The first fossils of Titanoboa were discovered around modern-day Columbia, in South America. They lived in the tropical rainforests that existed on the continent, right around 60 million years ago. These snakes came after the time of the dinosaurs, making them some of the largest reptiles on the planet at the time. Researchers have found around 30 fossil elements that confidently belong to Titanoboa, meaning this creature isn’t just some myth that is exaggerated, but an actual creature that lived on earth soon after the dinosaurs were wiped out.

What did Titanoboa eat?

What Did the Largest Snake Ever Eat to Feed its 2,500 Pound Body?
Scientists have discovered parts of the snakes backbone and skull, which helped them estimate the snake’s massive size.

Michael Rosskothen/Shutterstock.com

One of the toughest things about being a large apex predator is that finding enough food can be difficult. For warm-blooded mammals, that is even more so the case, although Titanoboa was a cold-blooded reptile. Due to it’s size, Titanoboa could pretty much eat anything it wanted to, although it likely had a few favorite foods that it was especially evolved to feed on.

Current research points to Titanoboa being piscivorous, meaning it primarily ate fish. During that time period on earth, the prey sources were much larger than most animals are today, and the fossil record backs this fact. While the scientists were digging for fossils in Columbia, where they would eventually find Titanoboa, they also found other animals. Among these animals were large bony fish, giant turtles, and monstrous crocodiles. All of these large animals would have been the perfect source of food for a hungry snake! After analyzing the data, researchers guess that Titanoboa mostly ate fish, although it would have also eaten other reptiles and amphibians, including large crocodiles and giant turtles.

How did Titanoboa hunt?

They are thought to be expert ambush predators, having the ability to chase and strike their unsuspecting prey at incredible speeds. Their diet included all kinds of giant reptiles, fish, mammals, etc. available for consuming within their habitat.

Extinct Animals

Like many snakes today, Titanoboa was an ambush predator. Essentially, it would sit motionless, sometimes for days, waiting for something to pass close enough to strike. When a turtle or fish would get too close, it would lash out and grab it with it’s jaws. Like boas today, Titanoboa would then use its immense size and strength to slowly squeeze the prey until it died, a process known as constriction.

Most of a Titanoboa’s life was probably spent in the water. Although it had the ability to go on land, there probably weren’t enough large prey animals to support the snake long term. Additionally, the immense weight of the snake would have been especially felt while on land. This would have made it uncomfortable and could even be harmful. As a result, it likely stayed in the water whenever possible.

What kinds of fish did Titanoboa eat?

What Did the Largest Snake Ever Eat to Feed its 2,500 Pound Body?
Titanoboa would have eaten large, bony fish and a type of fish known as lungfish.

Michael Rosskothen/Shutterstock.com

Using data from the fossils and some expert guesses, researches believe they have an idea of the kinds of fish that Titanoboa mostly ate. From the snakes bony palate and the number of teeth it had, it probably ate large bony fish and lungfish. Although most of these fish are extinct today, a few species remain, including bone-tongues and mooneyes.

Conclusion

Although the Titanoboa was one of the top predators during its time, evolution repeatedly shows us that apex predators are the first to go during periods of global change. These snakes were cool, but it’s probably a good thing that they don’t exist anymore – humans and Titanoboa probably wouldn’t have gotten along too well. Still, these snakes were truly amazing. Thankfully, we have their much smaller and more docile cousins around today that we can enjoy.

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Titanoboa swimming underwater
The Titanoboa's diet consisted mainly of fish.
Dotted Yeti/Shutterstock.com
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About the Author

Colby is a freelance writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. When he isn't distracted by his backyard birdfeeder, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone around him about what he's recently learned. There's a whole world to learn about and Colby is content to spend his life learning as much as he can about it!

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