Anaconda (The Largest Snakes In The World)
Anacondas are huge snakes belonging to the Boa family and are also known as Water Boa. The name suits them well, since they are the most aquatic of the Boas, and live in or near swamps and back river systems. They are also found in tropical rainforests, Savannah grasslands, scrub forests and deciduous forests. Anaconda's weight is usually supported by water. They prefer to live in water, but do enjoy spending time on land in shallow caves, by the water's edge, or on river bank trees to bask in the sun. They are more often found in swamps and calm waters than in swift moving rivers.Due to their enormous size, they appear sluggish on land or in trees; but in water, they are capable of surprising speed. They can stay completely submerged for 10 minutes. They are agile swimmers but sometimes prefer to let the river's current carry them downstream with only their nostrils above the watery surface. Anacondas in the wild spend most of their time in rivers hunting for food. Their lifestyle is nocturnal, and they are shy solitary creatures, not easily seen.Anacondas give birth to living young. Sometimes as many as 100 may be born, but most often 20 to 40 baby snakes, about 2 feet in length, are born at a time. The young are called ‘neonates'. They can hunt and care for themselves soon after birth, but are pretty much defenceless against large predators and often fall prey to them. They eat small rodents like rats and mice, baby birds, frogs and small fishes.The Tamil word for Anacond ‘anaikolra', which means ‘elephant killer'. The early Spanish settlers referred to this snake as ‘matatoro', which means ‘bull killer'
What an anaconda looks like?
The anaconda has a brownish green, scaly skin that glistens but is dry to the touch. The nostrils are on the top of the snout, letting the snake breathe easily when it is in water. It ‘smells' with its tongue, has no fangs and is non-venomous. It has a large head and thick neck. It emits a foul smelling, brownish musk, which is quite poisonous to small organisms. This may prevent ticks and leeches from attacking them when they are out of water for long periods. It continues to grow all its life, getting bigger and bigger.
Anacondas are famous for their size and weight. They are considered to be big snakes. These snakes may reach a length of over 29 feet and a diameter of more than 12 inches. There are many stories about anacondas being much longer, but they cannot be confirmed. Anacondas like to swim in rivers, making it difficult for researchers to estimate their length. Besides, their ability to remain partly hidden under water makes it difficult to find and accurately document a specimen that exceeds the current world record.
There are some historical reports by an early European explorer of the South American jungles seeing giant anacondas up to 100 feet. Some native people of South America have reported seeing anacondas up to 50 feet. However, none anywhere near that size has ever been caught and measured. The largest documented Anaconda to date was almost 28 feet, with a girth of 44 inches. It was not weighed at the time! But scientists estimate that it must have weighed over 500 pounds.
There is a misconception about them that they are the largest among all snake species. However, the fact is that they are the heaviest in weight and may not be the longest. They are also often mistaken for their Eastern Hemisphere cousin, the Reticulated Python. The Asiatic Reticulated Python holds the world record to be the longest snake ever measured, at 33 feet. The Anaconda, however, is considerably heavier than the Reticulated Python. A 20 foot Anaconda will weigh more than a 33 foot Reticulated Python! As a result, anacondas are considered the largest (i.e the heaviest).
The Anaconda lives throughout tropical South America, Central America and east of the Andes, mainly in the Amazon and Orinoco basins. It is also found in Trinidad.
The species is variable in colour and size, and not all anacondas are huge. However, two types are well known.
- Green Anaconda - Scientifically called Eunectes Murinus, it is dark green in colour, with black oval patches on its back. This dark green pattern blends the snake well with the dense wet vegetation of its habitat. It is the heaviest among all giant snakes - an adult can grow to more than nine metres in length.
- Yellow Anaconda - The Yellow Anaconda, scientifically named Eunectes Notaeus and formerly called Boa Murinus, is true to its name. It is mostly yellow in colour with black spots. It is much smaller than the Green Anaconda and reaches lengths of 10 feet to 12 feet. Its habitat includes swamps, marshes, bush-covers, riverbanks and streams. It can be found in Argentina, Paraguary, southeast Bolivia and Brazil.
Do anacondas bite?
Just about every species of snake on earth has teeth. Anacondas' teeth are for chewing. However, for holding onto their prey and preventing it from escaping, they rely on their enormous size and power. It is possible to be bitten by an Anaconda but the bite itself would not be fatal.
Like all snakes, anacondas are carnivores (meat eaters) and mostly hunt at night. While some snakes use poison to kill or paralyze their victims, anacondas are non venomous and kill by constriction (squeezing). This means that they coil their large muscular bodies around their victim and squeeze until the prey suffocates. They lie submerged in water, with only a small part of their head above the surface. They also often lie in wait upon the branch of tree, and come surging down to catch animals which come for a drink.
They often find it convenient to drown their prey by dragging them underwater, rather than suffocating them by constriction. With their sharp teeth and powerful jaws, they grab the victim, which may be drowned or squeezed to death. Like all snakes, they swallow their prey whole starting with the head. Their top and bottom jaws are attached to each other with stretchable ligaments that allow the snakes to swallow animals wider than themselves. Sometimes, when they hunt on land, they are rather slow in moving, and have to rely on stealth and the element of surprise to catch their unsuspecting prey.
Anacondas mainly feed on birds, deer, pigs, dogs and large rodents such as capybara and agouti. Fishes are the largest part of their diet. Occasionally, they have been known to attack turtles, jaguars, other snakes and caiman (a relative of alligator).
The anaconda has a very slow digestive system, After a big meal, they will rest for several days while digestion occurs. Many anacondas will not eat again for several weeks or even months, depending upon the size of the last meal. One captive Anaconda is on record for fasting for two years! Once the food is inside the snake, it must be digested quickly before it rots inside the snake's guts. If a snake cannot digest its prey before the bacteria do, it will be forced to get rid of it. If the snake cannot spit it out, then it may die of food poisoning.
Anacondas can live into their thirties.
Do they eat people?
Stories about enormous size and awesome man-eating qualities are exciting but not usual. Anacondas in the jungles of South America can grow so big that they can swallow a grown man, but they seldom attack humans. Incidents of anaconda attacks, although confirmed, are rare because anacondas live in places where humans do not live
The greatest threat to the anaconda is Man. Most local people kill these snakes out of the fear that they are man-eaters. However, in most instances, if an anaconda senses a human in the area, it will retreat in the other direction. Habitat destruction is another problem that the anaconda faces.