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Los Llanos, Casanare, Colombia

(Eunectes murinus)

IUCN status : Not evaluated

Anacondas are the largest and heaviest snake species on earth. At times the Reticulated Pythons grow up to match the length of an Anaconda, but they can never match the size and bulk. The largest Anaconda recorded in wild was 10 m long. They can weigh up to 250 Kg. Anacondas grow throughout their life. The females are much larger than the males. While the males can grow up to 3-4 meters, it is the females which grow enormously and reach the size of 7-10 meters.

Unlike any other boa constrictors, Anacondas give birth to live youngs and the offspring are independent since birth. In a recent evidence, it is discovered that Anacondas can breed, even in the absence of a male – a rare phenomena called Parthenogenesis, found only amongst reptiles.

Anacondas are good swimmers and can remain submerged in water for up to 10 minutes at a time. It is non venomous but a single bite can cause severe injuries or pain. This is because of the 4 rows of needle sharp teeth aligned in the upper jaw which helps the snake to ingest its prey. Anacondas have a pair of pupil less eyes placed abnormally on top of its head. This helps the snake to keep itself completely submerged yet see and track its prey by exposing themselves minimally. Once a target is locked, they go underwater and strike its prey with stealth and lightning speed. Anacondas constrict its prey by coiling around it. But surprisingly, it does not go for breaking the bones like other constrictors. Its massive pressure rather stops all blood circulation in the body of the prey and it dies out of heart failure. The pressure exerted by an Anaconda on its prey due to coiling is equivalent to a full grown Elephant standing on the chest of a human being, which is measured to be 40 Kg per square inch. After squeezing its prey to death, Anaconda starts the herculean task of swallowing it. Anacondas can swallow preys ten times larger than its mouth. This is because their lower jaw is not fixed with the upper one and hence can separate out incredibly wide to swallow its prey. Once swallowed, the Anaconda lies immobile for weeks depending upon the size of the prey and the time taken by the snake to digest it. It is during this time that they are most vulnerable to scavengers and other predators. One feast is good enough for the Anaconda to go for months. Hence an Anaconda needs to hunt for  5-10 times in a year. Anacondas can easily feed on Capybaras, Caimans and even Jaguars. At times Anacondas show cannibalism also. During mating season (April – May), female Anacondas have been found to feed on the males. There are no recorded instances where an Anaconda has eaten or killed a human being. However such stories continue to spread fear through the narratives of erstwhile researchers and travelers.

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