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Facts About the Anaconda

Marlene Alphonse
Whenever we think of anacondas, it sends shudders down the spine. In Hollywood movies, they have been portrayed as fearful creatures. But what are anacondas actually? Are they really such dangerous monsters as shown in the movies? Read the following story to know about anaconda facts.
Anaconda is a large south American snake that belongs to the family of boa constrictors. Anacondas, also known as water boas are one of the largest and most powerful snakes amongst other reptiles in the world. Anaconda is derived from Eunectes, which in Latin means 'good swimmer'.
It is non venomous and comes in various colors like brown, olive green, pale yellow, grayish brown etc. and having large, oval black colored spots on its back. These are inhabitants of the rivers of Brazil and Guiana and are also found in the dense rain forests on the Amazon basin.
The habitat of this reptile is usually swamps and rivers of tropical regions in South America. Some species like the Yellow Anaconda can be found in Argentina as well.

Anaconda Classification

Before taking a look at the anaconda facts, let us be familiar with the taxonomic categorization of this enormous reptile, which is given below:
  • Genus Eunectes
  • Order Squamata
  • Phylum Chordata
  • Kingdom Animalia
  • Class Reptilia
  • Family Boidae
  • Species Eunectes deschauenseei, Eunectes notaeus, Eunectes beniensis, Eunectes murinus

Diet and Lifestyle

  • Female anacondas sometimes eat their male counterparts.
  • Their main diet consists of mice, frogs, turtles, pigs, deer, caiman, buffaloes, etc.
  • Since they belong to the family of constrictors, they constrict their prey by wrapping their body around the prey and suffocate it to death. After the prey is dead, it is swallowed whole, without chewing, at leisure.
  • These snakes can eat up to 40 pounds a day.
  • Anacondas have very efficient but equally slow digestive systems. They can take many days to digest a small meal, and weeks and months for a huge meal!
  • Since they digest food very slowly, they can survive without food for as long as a year, if they have eaten a very large animal!
  • At the same time, since digestion is slow, there is a chance that the food may rot inside their body before it is digested. If that happens, anacondas can die due to food poisoning. So they have to expel out food if it has started rotting in their stomach!
  • The digestive systems of anacondas produce very strong digestive enzymes, which can digest everything except claws, fur and beaks! But strangely, these enzymes are incapable of digesting plant matter, so it passes through their system intact!
  • Anacondas are mostly active nocturnally. Since they are shy creatures, they rarely venture out during the daytime.
  • Being excellent swimmers, anacondas prefer staying near water bodies. When they feel threatened or frightened, they prefer to retreat into the water. That is their defense mechanism.
  • They also spend more time in their habitat, which is normally the dark, murky waters of a river. This makes it tough for the scientists to find them and conduct research on them.
  • Another reason why they prefer staying in water is that, if they stay out of the water for a long stretch they tend to suffer from tick infestation. 
Also, their weight makes it pretty difficult for them to drag their body on the ground, but water offers buoyancy and makes them feel much lighter, improving their speed.

Physical Features and Mating

Sometimes as many as 15 male anacondas vie for the opportunity to mate with the female. The fight between them can go on for 2 weeks or more
  • Anacondas have unhinged jaws, unlike humans and other animals. They are held together by ligaments which can stretch to epic proportions!
This is what makes it possible for anacondas to swallow huge animals like jaguars and buffaloes, without tearing their mouths!
  • Females are almost 4 to 5 times longer and bulkier than their male counterparts.
  • They give birth to baby anacondas instead of laying eggs. The babies are enclosed in a clear membrane when inside the mother's body, but this membrane breaks right before she delivers!
  • The female gives birth to about 25 to 30 offspring at a time. The young ones are up to two feet long at the time of birth and can swim and hunt immediately after they are born.
  • Their nostrils and eyes are located on the head, so they can lie submerged in the water, with only their eyes and nose above water level. This is one way of camouflage used to hunt an unaware prey.
  • Anacondas can stay underwater in wait for their prey for an astonishing 10 minutes, before they need to come up for air!
  • Anacondas hardly leave behind a trail when they move, and are very subtle in their movement.
  • They have immense muscular strength. Enough to squeeze huge animals to death by coiling themselves around the animals.
  • They also have a super stretchy body, which can stretch enough to accommodate large meals like buffaloes and jaguars.

Miscellaneous Facts

Anacondas have 3 sets of teeth! Two on the top and one on the bottom. Yet, they never chew their prey! Here are a few more interesting facts about the world's heaviest snakes.
  • Anacondas continue to grow as long as they live!
  • Compared to other animals, anacondas live a very long life. Around 35 - 45 years!
  • To prevent tick/ flea infestation, these snakes emit a foul-smelling substance which is poisonous to small creatures.
  • Though the origin of their name is unknown, there are many versions of it. Some people believe that the word anaconda originated from the Sinhalese (language of Sri Lanka) word henakandeya meaning 'a thing with an enormous body' or 'a whip snake'. 
A few others believed that anaconda is taken from the Tamil (a language spoken in Tamil Nadu, a state in South India) wordanaikondran that means 'elephant killer'.
  • They are also known in South America by many local names likematatoro (a Spanish term which means 'bull killer'), yakumama andsucuri (Native American terms used for this snake).
  • Out of the four types, namely Dark-spotted, Yellow, Green and Bolivian anacondas, the biggest species ever found is the Green Anaconda.
  • The world's biggest snake i.e. the Green anaconda is also the heaviest snake, with a fully grown adult weighing more than 550 pounds (or 227 kilograms approximately) and being 9 meters (approximately 30 feet) long.
  • The biological name of the Green anaconda, Eunectes murinus, is formed from the Greek wordEunectes meaning 'good swimmer' and Latin word murinus which means 'who hunts mice'.
Though anacondas are such huge reptiles, they hardly pose a threat to human beings. In fact, when they get a human scent they turn their course. It is we humans, who harm these magnificent reptiles for our selfish needs.