Titanoboa is coming to Lincoln.
The 48-foot-long replica of the world’s largest snake will be featured at the University of Nebraska State Museum in Morrill Hall starting Saturday. The exhibit is part of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and will be open through Sept. 7.
“This is the first exhibit in recent memory to have such national and international coverage to be housed at Morrill Hall,” said Mark Harris, associate director of University of Nebraska State Museum.
Not only will the Titanoboa replica be on display, there will be fossils and bones of actual Titanoboas as well as modern reptiles and video clips from the Smithsonian Channel documentary “Titanoboa: Monster Snake.”
Harris said the replica of Titanoboa is so big it barely fit in the loading dock doors of Nebraska Hall, where NU State Museum has storage space. The replica will be unpacked in Nebraska Hall, then moved by University of Nebraska-Lincoln moving services to Morrill Hall. It will have to be carried up stairs because it won’t fit in the Morrill Hall elevators. A Smithsonian representative and his crew will assemble it, which is expected to take at least a half day.
The Titanoboa exhibit will be the focus of this week’s “Sunday with a Scientist” – called Titanoboa vs. Today’s Nebraska Snakes – from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
Jason Head, a earth and atmospheric sciences assistant professor at UNL and curator of vertebrate paleontology at University of Nebraska State Museum, will be presenting a program that highlights the differences between the giant snakes of the past and their modern ancestors, as well as their relationship to climate change.
The program will give visitors the chance to interact with live snakes and learn about the importance of snake conservation. Head, along with Carlos Jaramillo from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Jonathan Bloch, from the University of Florida Museum of Natural History, first described this snake in 2008.
The Titanoboa was first discovered by these teams in Cerrejón, the world’s largest open-pit coal mine located in La Guajira, Colombia. Along with the Titanoboa, they found giant turtles and crocodiles, and some of the first known bean plants as well as some of the earliest fossil remains of banana, avocado and chocolate plants.
This area is now known to scientists as the world’s oldest neotropical rainforest. The scientists also believe that Titanoboa spent most of its time underwater in large river systems, which would a host a plethora of different animals for Titanboa to feed on. Reptiles’ body sizes are reliant on their environments. With every increase in body size, a reptile also needs increased heat energy to survive. This allows scientists to learn more about the earth’s temperature in ancient times. With the large size of Titanoboa, scientists can safely determine that the mean temperature for the region Titanoboa lived in was 86 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit during the Paleocene era.
The exhibit comes in celebration of Morrill Hall being included on the list of museums affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute, which was announced Feb. 5.
“The Smithsonian looks for facilitates that parallel their mission to be affiliated with,” said Mandy Haase, public relations coordinator for Morrill Hall. “They seek out institutions that have a reputation of scholarship, professionalism, high-quality exhibits and effective museum education programs.”
Morrill Hall is the first museum in Lincoln and the third in Nebraska to become a Smithsonian affiliate. The other two museums are the Durham Museum in Omaha and the Strategic Air and Space Museum in Ashland.
“This partnership (with the Smithsonian) is about developing a working relationship that will expand education for everyone,” Haase said.