What Is An Anaconda Snake ? All you need to know about this giant serpent...
The anaconda is a snake that fascinates as much as it can frighten. Often mentioned in novels or adventurous movies, it looks like a terrible predator of tropical forests that gives no chance for its prey. It is also said to be the biggest snake in the world. However, are all these claims valid? Don't they tend to exaggerate on this monument of the animal kingdom? It is what we will see in this article.
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1. What is an anaconda?
The anaconda is a snake of the squamata order (scaled reptiles), and the Boidae family (boas). There are four species in all: the green anaconda (Eunectes murinus), the Bolivian anaconda (Eunectes beniensis), the yellow anaconda (Eunectes notaeus), and the dark-spotted anaconda (Eunectes deschauenseei), which we will detail species by species below.
All these species are found in the swamps, rivers and tropical regions of South America, as well as in the swamps of the southern part of Trinidad, an island in the southeastern Caribbean, near Venezuela. Like all tropical reptiles, these anacondas like heat and humidity.
They are constrictor snakes, i.e. like all non-venomous snakes (pythons, boas, etc.), they kill their prey by suffocating it. They wrap their body around the animal, keeping an enormous pressure on it, while holding it very firmly with their powerful jaws, until it dies.
But these large predators are not unstoppable. Anacondas are also ophiophagous, which means that they can be cannibals. Unlike king cobras, which are exclusively cannibal, anacondas. It is not uncommon to see a female anaconda feeding on a male anaconda. If the anaconda is injured it can also be the prey of a mass of piranhas, particularly voracious when they smell blood in the water.
Anacondas are semi-aquatic snakes meaning that they live on land, but they are also very good swimmers and enjoy immersing themselves in the water. Their eyes and nostrils are positioned at the top of their head, which makes them perfect for moving on the surface of a river or swamp.
These species have what is called a highly developed sexual dimorphism. This means that there is a big difference between males and females. In the anacondas, it is the size, a female is at least twice the size and therefore the weight of the male.
Among the largest specimens, females measuring nine meters long and weighing 250 kg were found. Can we say that this makes it the largest and heaviest snake in the world? We will answer this question at the end of the article.
2. The green anaconda (Eunectes murinus)
This species of anaconda is, as its name suggests, dark green in color with black markings on the flanks, all along the body. The markings vary according to the species. It is the largest of the four anaconda species in South America.
They are very good swimmers, feeding on fish, large rodents, and sometimes jaguars, which are also their main predators.
These individuals are found in the tropical rivers of South America.
3. The anaconda of Bolivia (Eunectes beniensis)
This species of anaconda is found in the swamps of the inhabited plains of Bolivia. It is relatively similar to the green anaconda in size (only 1 m shorter on average), but differs mainly by a darker skin, which pulls more on the black than on the green.
Its favorite prey are large rodents, birds and some large mammals such as deer.
4. The yellow anaconda (Eunectes notaeus)
The yellow anaconda is one of the two smallest species of anacondas along with the dark spotted anaconda. We are talking here about female individuals (thus larger than the males) of 4 m maximum, and weighing about 40 kg. These anacondas are recognizable by their green/yellowish skin, strewn with black spots. Its natural environment is found near water sources and in dense vegetation, a little everywhere in South America.
It feeds mainly on fish, wild pigs and large rodents.
Its beautiful scales are detrimental to it since it is a victim of poaching for its meat and skin: By the way it is an endangered species.
5. The dark spotted anaconda (Eunectes deschauenseei)
This species of anaconda, the same size as the yellow anaconda, are recognizable by its light brown scales, dotted with black spots, similar to the colors of the scales of a python. It is found in large areas, ranging from French Guiana to Suriname and northern Brazil. It inhabits the swamps and wetlands of these lands. This species has the characteristic that it does not hesitate to go in height, in the mountains, up to 300 m of altitude, contrary to the other species.
Its diet consists of large rodents, birds, fish, and sometimes small alligators, which themselves hunt the anaconda.
This species is also endangered, the destruction of its natural habitats for human exploitation, and the shepherds who hunt them to protect their livestock have made it an endangered species.
6. The anaconda reproduction
In anacondas, as in many animals, there are periods of reproduction. The female sends pheromones to attract the males. However, from here on, this will have nothing to do with classic reproduction. Several males will be attracted to the pheromones of the female, and these will all be placed around the female, forming a "breeding ball". All the males are then in competition, and this one can last from two to four weeks. Once the female is fertilized, the males leave and resume their normal life.
The female snake has a particularity compared to most other snakes. Even in the world of reptiles: she is viviparous. This means that she does not lay eggs, but they are present and will develop in her. Gestation will take six to seven months, and, at the end of the gestation period, the female will give birth to 20 to 40 young. However, the number may vary depending on the size of the mother. Litters of 100 pups have been recorded.
7. Finally, is the anaconda the longest and heaviest snake in the world?
It is now time to answer this great question. We already know that it will be the green anaconda, with its 9 meters and 240 kg if it is the case. Well, it won't be! It is indeed the heaviest snake globally, but in terms of size, the green anaconda is surpassed by the reticulated python, with its 10 meters long. This one is the second heaviest snake in weight, with an average of 160 kg, behind the green anaconda.