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Morbidly Obese Snake

Updated on August 21, 2013
Morbidly Obese Snake
Morbidly Obese Snake | Source

It is all too sad but true. The same changes that social scientists, doctors and physiologists have noted and cautioned about among the portlier members of our ever-widening human population are also being seen by many of the country’s leading zoologists, herpetologists and snake-handlers. Yes, even our serpents are becoming less and less sleek and slinky and sinuous year after year.

And so, throughout many of our swamps and roadsides, our fields and riverbeds, we are now seeing the first generation of truly morbidly obese snakes. Check out this fatty, for example, spied basking along the damp fringe of a drying arroyo outside Tempe, Arizona in Papago Park. (Don’t fall for this squamate’s claim that he just happens to be ‘big-boned’ and comes from a long line of husky reptiles; if you were to gently prod the side of his scaly hide, he’d quiver and quake all over like a gently shaken platter of lime jello mold.)

This voluminous viper is particularly logy and somnolent, having just completed an afternoon meal of 17 rodents — at last count — of varying sizes and species. Looks like he may need the next day or two to completely digest this repast. Lucky for him there are presently no natural predators hanging around the area, for he will not be able to move at all until digestion has considerably advanced.

Several decades ago, a Rosy Boa such as this would typically grow to only about a yard or so in length, with its greatest body diameter about the same as your average golf ball. No longer! Now, it is much more common to see one of these creatures reach just a little over two feet in overall body length, but an overall girth at its widest exceeding that of most suburban toddlers’ backyard swimming pools! Several researchers have posited that the fattening snakes seem to ‘run out of skin’, such that their excessive growth in stomach diameter causes their body length to be constrained to shorter than normal. As an additional side effect of all that gain in weight and girth, the skin of the Rosy Boa gets stretched, so that the snake’s coloration fades from a rosy salmon to a very pale pinkish white. It is said that groupings of the basking creatures look like nothing so much as a passel of discarded oversized hot water bottles tossed along a swale.

As the Rosy Boas of the southwestern United States become fatter and fatter with each new generation, the famed Anaconda of tropical South America is in real danger of losing its claim to being the largest and most massive snake on the planet. Anacondas may grow to nearly 30 feet in length, packing up to 500 pounds into a body casing that may reach a total girth of 44 inches or so. However, around Phoenix and Flagstaff, Rosy Boas have already been documented with diameters of over 40 inches and weights up to 385 pounds. As the American snakes continue to not only prey on fat American rodents, but also forage among the many fast food leftovers in dumpsters and neighborhood trash cans, it won’t be long before a Rosy Boa somewhere will lay claim to fattest snake in the grass!

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