03/28/2012 12:42 pm ET Updated Mar 28, 2012

LOOK: Titanoboa, World's Biggest Snake, Coming To Smithsonian

WASHINGTON -- The world's biggest snake is coming to the nation's capital. A model of it, anyway.

The scientifically accurate, realistic model of the prehistoric reptile is coming to the Museum of Natural History. And it's huge!

Titanoboa is 48 feet long and weighs 2,500 pounds -- think of this snake as being about the length of a male sperm whale, or a city bus, and about as heavy as a hippo. This giant reptile's closest living relative is the boa constrictor which, averaging just 8-10 feet long, seems relatively puny in comparison.

The snake lived some 60 million years ago, during the Paleocene epoch, a few million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs. The world was full of enormous animals then; the disappearance of dinosaurs meant that predators were scarce while food was plentiful. A hotter climate is also thought to relate to the big animals' growth.

Titanoboa cerrejonensis, or "titanic boa from Cerrejon," was discovered in an open-pit coal mine in northeastern Colombia. (An article in Smithsonian magazine's April issue has great information about the discovery of the big snake.)

The Colombian mine is a place rich in fossils; a new species of turtle -- thick-shelled, presumably to repel attacks from the Titanoboa -- was also discovered there, as was a 20-foot-long crocodile that scientists say both competed with the Titanoboa for food and was probably also eaten by the snake.

The Smithsonian's exhibition -- which is tied in with "TITANOBOA: MONSTER SNAKE," a two-hour TV special premiering April 1 -- opens at the the National Museum of Natural History (intersection of 10th Street NWand Constitution Ave. NW) on March 30.

And here's a Titanoboa slideshow to keep you going until then:


"Titanoboa: Monster Snake" the Smithsonian Channel. a two-hour special about the colossal constrictor, on Sunday, April 1 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

The channel is scheduled to premiere Titanoboa: Monster Snake, a two-hour special about the colossal constrictor, on Sunday, April 1 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.