Order: Squamata, Family: Boidae
Anacondas may grow to more than 29 feet, weigh 550 pounds or more, and measure more than 12 inches in diameter. The female typically outweighs the male.
The anaconda has a large head and thick neck; its eyes and nostrils are positioned on top of its head. It is extremely muscular.
II. GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
- The anaconda's range extends throughout South America, east of the Andes and mainly in the Amazon and Orinoco basins.
- Its habitats include tropical rain forests, savannas, grasslands, scrub forests and deciduous forests.
- The anaconda lives in swamps and calm waters.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
- Carnivorous, anacondas eat capybaras and other large rodents, tapirs, deer, peccaries, fish, turtles, birds, sheep, dogs and aquatic reptiles. They occasionally prey on jaguars.
- Young fed mice, rats, chicks, frogs and fish.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
- The anaconda is nocturnal and nonvenomous.
- Solitary, it stays within its own hunting area.
- Anacondas reach sexual maturity at 3 to 4 years of age.
- The mating season begins at the onset of the annual rains, with courtship lasting several months.
- Female anacondas give off pheromones (chemical scents), which are tracked by nearby males. Females remain fairly inactive during this period, with males coming from all directions. Anacondas usually court and copulate in water.
- After a gestation period of six months, the female anaconda gives birth to a litter consisting of from 20 to 40 live young. However, litters can contain as many as 100 babies.
- Young usually measure 2 feet long at birth, and within hours can swim, hunt and care for themselves.
- Many newborns refuse food for the first few months of life.
- Anacondas grow rapidly until they reach sexual maturity, after which they continue to grow but at a much slower pace.
- When hunting, the anaconda coils in murky, shallow pools or at the river's edge. The snake waits to ambush unsuspecting prey as it approaches the water to drink. Using its sharp teeth, powerful jaws and strong muscles, the anaconda grabs the prey and pulls it underwater to drown it.
- The anaconda swallows prey whole, starting with the head so that the legs fold up and prey goes down smoothly.
- The anaconda has a slow-acting digestive system. After a big meal, it rests for several days while digesting the food. It will often not eat again for several weeks or even months, depending on the size of the meal.
- The anaconda prefers water, though it also spends time on land in nearby shallow caves, and in riverbank trees basking in the sun. However, it becomes tick infested on land and can't move as quickly.
- Anacondas live to be about 30 years old.
VI. POPULATION STATUS:
- The anaconda emits a foul-smelling musk from a gland in its cloaca. This brownish musk is poisonous to small organisms and may prevent ticks and leeches from attaching themselves.
- The anaconda's eyes and nostrils are located high up on its head, allowing the snake to breathe and see while its body is submerged underwater.
- Agile swimmers, anacondas can remain completely submerged underwater for 10 minutes and often lay submerged waiting for prey. They also let themselves by carried by the river current downstream and drift to the river's edge when satisfied with a new location.
- The anaconda can swallow prey much larger than the size of its mouth, since its jaws can unhinge and the jawbones are loosely connected to the skull.
- When the anaconda eats, its muscles have wave-like contractions and crush prey, surging it downward with every bite.
- The anaconda's coloring serves as camouflage in areas of dense vegetation and murky water.
VII. MORE ANACONDA FACTS:
- Other animals prey on newborn anacondas.
- All South American countries prohibit trade.
- Humans are the anaconda's greatest threat; many snakes have been killed on sight out of fear.
- Habitat destruction also threatens the anaconda.
- The Tamil word for anaconda is anaikolra, which means "elephant killer," and early Spanish settlers referred to it as matatoro, or "bull killer."
- Considered the biggest snake in the world, the anaconda is the heaviest but may not be the longest. The reticulated python rivals the anaconda for the title of world's longest snake. However, a 20-foot anaconda weighs more than a 33-foot python.
- Anacondas have attacked humans, though rarely, and anaconda attacks leading to human death are even more rare.
- Anaconda squeeze tighter each time their prey breathes out, so that the prey can't breathe in again. The prey suffocates relatively quickly.