What is an Anaconda?
Looking for anaconda facts? Before we give you the facts, let’s quickly answer, ‘what is an anaconda?’ An anaconda, also known as water boa, is large snake of the genus Eunectes. Found in tropical South America, it is semiaquatic snake with great swimming capabilities. Anacondas are all non-venomous snakes. They are constrictors.
Anacondas have earned a stature that is nothing short of ‘Mythical’. Who to blame for this? Well, quite a few actually!
For starters, the Hollywood movie series on ‘Anacondas’ is a good place to start. For some voracious netizen readers, we can safely point to National Geographic.
It may sound a little weird, but yes, NatGeo has some online published information that has not been properly verified. The most evident of all is definitely the information on Anacondas.
This article on Anaconda facts aims towards dispelling a few myths and learning the truth. So, let us start with our journey into the world of this so-called ‘Mythical Snake’. We hope you will find this article very interesting.
But, before we start with this list of facts, let us take a quick look at classification.
Classification of Anaconda
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Reptilia
- Order: Squamata
- Suborder: Serpents
- Family: Boidae
- Subfamily: Boinae
- Genus: Eunectes
Note: There are four different species of Anaconda. They are: Green Anaconda (Eunectes murinus), Yellow Anaconda (Eunectes notaeus), Dark-Spotted Anaconda (Eunectes deschauenseei), and Bolivian Anaconda (Eunectes beniensis).
Did you know?
People believe that there is a giant anaconda of enormous proportions. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately), no such snake exists. It is a mythical creature!
Now it is time to start with our enormous list of anaconda facts. Hopefully, you are ready!
Anaconda Facts: 1-5 | Naming and Species
1. ‘Anaconda’ doesn’t refer to a specific snake type. The term actually refers to four different species belonging to the genus ‘Eunectes’. This genus ‘Eunectes’ in turn belongs to the ‘Boa’ family.
2. The term ‘Eunectes’ actually means, ‘Good Swimmer’. Eunectes is a Greek word. And yes, Anacondas are indeed very good swimmers.
3. Now, we said that the term ‘Anaconda’ refers to a group of 4 different species. What are those different species? They are:
- Eunectes murinus | Green Anaconda
- Eunectes notaeus | Yellow Anaconda
- Eunectes deschauenseei | Dark-Spotted Anaconda
- Eunectes beniensis | Bolivian Anaconda
4. The Yellow Anaconda is also often known by the name Paraguayan Anaconda.
5. The Bolivian Anaconda is also often known by the name Beni Anaconda.
Anaconda Facts: 6-10 | Distribution (Where do they live?)
6. The four species of Anacondas that we mentioned only a while ago are all found in South America. They are most common in Orinoco River basin and Amazon River basin.
7. The Green Anacondas in specific are more widespread in the Brazilian Amazon basin but they are also found in ample numbers in Orinoco River basin, Guianas, Trinidad, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela and Colombia.
8. The Yellow Anaconda is found mostly in southern Brazil, Paraguay, northeastern Argentina and Bolivia.
9. The Bolivian Anaconda is found in region is primarily restricted to a few parts of Bolivia.
10. The Dark-Spotted Anaconda is found in French Guiana and Brazil.
Anaconda Facts: 11-15 | How big are Anacondas?
11. Here is where things go a bit dicey. San Diego Zoo, The Nature Conservancy and National Geographic – all of them say that the Green Anaconda reaches the length of 9 meters or approximately 30 feet.
12. Rivas, on the other hand says that the maximum length they attain is 20 feet and this fact comes from their observation of over 1,000 Anacondas that they have raised.
13. As a matter of fact, the crown for being the longest snake actually goes to a reticulated python. Recorded in Guinness Book of World Records, this reticulated python measured a whopping 25 feet in length, which is around 7.6 meters.
14. Also, the Boas and Pythons of the World says that the male Anacondas measure 9 feet or 2.7 meters while the female Anacondas can reach the length of 15 feet or 4.5 meters.
15. According to RainforestCruises, the longest known Green Anaconda had a length of 17.1 feet or 5 meters. The snake was actually measured by Dr. Jesús Antonio Rivas.
Anaconda Facts: 16-20 | How heavy are Anacondas?
16. Again, this is also disputed. According to National Geographic, the biggest of the Anacondas (Green ones) can reach a weight of whopping 250 kilograms or 550 lbs.
17. The number given by National Geographic has no proper records and a snake that heavy could have easily enlisted itself in Guinness Book of World Records. That’s however, not the case.
18. William E. Duellman authored The Lives of Amphibians and Reptiles in an Amazonian Rainforest says that the maximum weight an Anaconda attains is 68 kilograms or 150 lbs. The average however stays between 45 kilograms and 68 kilograms or 100 lbs. And 150 lbs.
19. According to anacondas.org, the some of the heaviest of the Anacondas can tip the scale at 200 lbs. But… 550 lbs sounds just absurd and has not been recorded anywhere.
20. According to Wikipedia, the heaviest verified Green Anaconda weighed 97.5 kilograms or 215 lbs. The snake was weighed by Dr. Jesús Antonio Rivas and the snake he measured was a female Green Anaconda.
Anaconda Facts: 21-25 | Physical characteristics of Anacondas
21. Let’s start with Green Anacondas. They are biggest of all Anacondas and yes, they are either greenish-brown in color or they have greenish-gray or olive color.
22. Starting from the mid-body, all the way down to the posterior, the Green Anacondas have egg-shaped spots that are either brown or black in color.
23. Some Green Anacondas will be more yellowish on their sides that green. The on sides, the egg-shaped spots can be seen. Those spots will have yellow centers.
24. Green Anacondas are pretty big but the actually size is very difficult to gauge because it is difficult to stretch out the snake properly (to learn more about the size of Anacondas, read our previous article). On top of that, people often actually overestimate the side of a Green Anaconda because of two reasons:
- People are really afraid of the snake and they end up exaggerating the size because of this fear.
- A Green Anaconda which has recently eaten will look quite bigger than the one that has not eaten. This is another reason for the exaggeration of the size.
25. Coming to Yellow Anacondas, they have a golden-tan color. However, their actual color may be yellow or yellow-green as well.
Anaconda Facts: 26-30 | Physical characteristics of Anacondas
26. Even the Yellow Anacondas will have spots, blotches, dorsal bands and streaks. They are either dark brown or black in color.
27. Yellow Anacondas have scales at the bottom of their tails. These scales are yellow and black in color. The arrangement of these scales is unique for each Yellow Anaconda.
28. According to World Land Trust, the average length of a Yellow Anaconda is about 2.7 meters or 9 feet.
29. Coming to Bolivian Anacondas, not much is known about the species. Initially it was thought that this species was a hybrid of the Green and the Yellow Anaconda but scientists eventually found that they were an entirely different species.
30. The Dark-Spotted Anacondas have brown skin color with black or dark brown spots in them. Even these Dark-Spotted Anacondas are known for growing up to 2.7 meters or 9 feet in length.
Anaconda Facts: 31-35 | Physical characteristics of Anacondas
31. Coming to general physical characteristics of all Anaconda species, Anacondas are really stocky and muscular compared to other snakes in the Boa family.
32. While their necks are thick, Anacondas are known to have large yet narrow heads.
33. Their nostrils and their eyes are always located on top of their heads. This arrangement allows the Anacondas to wholly remain submerged in water while just keeping their eyes and nostrils above water.
34. They have a very distinctive black stripe running all the way up to their jaws from their eyes.
35. Anacondas have scales. They are smooth and small towards the front but as the scales extend towards the posterior of their bodies, they become gradually larger and larger.
Anaconda Facts: 36-40 | Physical characteristics of Anacondas
36. These snakes are known for having spurs on scales near their cloacal region. These spurs are larger in males than in females.
37. Anacondas are known to be sexually dimorphic. This means that the males and the females can be easily differentiated. As a matter of facts, Anacondas have largest sexual dimorphism among all known tetrapod species (tetrapods are animals that have four limbs and feet and snakes have evolved from tetrapods).
38. Sexual dimorphism in Anacondas is visible in the form that females are way larger than the males.
39. Anacondas are known to have loose skin. According the the Animal Diversity Web of University of Michigan, the loose skin of Anacondas help them in water absorption.
40. Anacondas, like all other snakes are known to have forked tongues. The forked tongue help them to capture chemicals from the environment.
This aids them in locating nearby preys and even finding a suitable mate. They also have the Jacobson’s organ on the roof of their mouths. This is where the chemicals collected from the environment are processed.
Anaconda Facts: 41-45 | Ovoviviparous, Mating Season, Scent Trail
41. Anacondas are reptiles. So, what do you expect? Yes, you will generally expect that they lay eggs. That however is not true.
42. Anacondas are ovoviviparous reptiles. This means that they, despite being reptiles, will give birth to live young snakes just like other mammals give birth to offspring. This makes them quite unusual. They will produce eggs but will not lay them. The eggs will hatch inside the female’s body.
43. As far as the mating is concerned, Anacondas usually mate during the spring time. This is the time when females will either emit airborne chemicals or scent trails to let the males know that they are ready for mating.
44. The males will pick up those scents or chemicals by flicking their forked tongue in air. Once they pick up the scent, they will follow the trail and reach the females.
45. Usually females will not move long distances. They will more or less stay put in a particular spot. The males will however travel long distances to find the females in heat.
Anaconda Facts: 46-50 | Breeding Ball, Mating Process
46. The mating of the Anacondas will usually take place in water or near water. They won’t wander off far from the water. A single female will attract multiple males who will wrestle for mating. Up to 12 male Anacondas can move in on a single female.
47. Usually the males will cling on or coil around a single female and keep wrestling. A giant swarm of snakes form in the waters during the mating season. This breeding ball can actually last for up to four weeks.
48. During the wrestling, the male Anacondas will make use of their spurs and press their cloacal parts on the female’s body. They usually do this to arouse the female.
49. The males make use of their spurs for continuously scratching the body of the female. Eventually when the female is aroused, she will raise her cloacal part. This is when the male who overpowers others will shove in a waxy plug inside her cloaca.
50. It is to be noted that the males do wrestle and fight for mating rights and the winner is the one who gets to fulfill his amorous desires but, even the female may decide who she wants to mate with.
Anaconda Facts: 51-55 | Embryos, Gestation
51. Once the mating is over, the female will carry her embryos inside her body and will have a gestation period of 6 to 7 months. Usually it is 6 months. During this period, the pregnant Anaconda will not feed because hunting increases injury risks and babies can be harmed.
52. The embryos will remain attached to a yolk sack inside the female and a membrane will keep them surrounded.
53. The Anacondas are ovoviviparous. This means that the eggs will actually hatch inside the body of the mother Anaconda. The pregnant Anaconda will usually bask in Sun for raising her body temperature so that the embryonic growth process speeds up.
54. After 6 months of gestation and basking in Sun, the eggs will hatch inside the females body but the baby Anacondas will still remain wrapped in the membrane that originally kept the embryos surrounded.
55. When it is time for birth, the babies will be pushed out of the cloacal region by the female Anaconda with the babies still inside the membrane.
Anaconda Facts: 56-60 | Neonates Birth, Litter, Size
56. Once the baby Anacondas are out, they will break out of the membrane and move around. The newborns are very much capable of swimming and hunting and will go around doing so.
57. Because the newborns can swim and hunt on their own, the mother Anaconda will not take care of the babies.
58. The newborn Anaconda babies are actually referred as ‘neonates’.
59. The litter size of a typical female Anaconda is around 20 to 40 neonates but fewer babies can be born for smaller female Anacondas.
60. The neonates are around 2.2 feet to 2.6 feet long and they eventually reach their sexual maturity when they are around 4 years old. Before they reach their sexual maturity, the neonates are frequently preyed upon by predators because the parent snake doesn’t look after them.
Anaconda Facts: 61-65 | What do they eat?
61. Anacondas are apex predators. Yes, that means that they are on top of their food chain. The only natural predator of Anaconda is ‘humans’. Yes, there’s no other natural predator of a fully grown and adult Anaconda. This means, no one eats an Anaconda as meal.
62. Since, Anacondas are apex predators, they are the ones that eat others and they have a wide range of food they eat.
63. Anacondas eat rodents, birds, fish, lizards, amphibians and various mammals. Fully grown adult Anacondas (such as the Green Anaconda) can feed on broad-snouted caimans.
64. And yes, the grown up Anacondas often actually feed on jaguars too! Yes, jaguars. It may be hard to believe but that is true.
65. Since Anacondas are apex predators, they are usually not eaten by others but when these snakes try to eat big prey such as caimans and jaguars, they may incur some serious injuries that may eventually lead to death of the snakes.
Anaconda Facts: 66-70 | What do they eat?
66. The other preys include red side-necked turtle, South American tapirs, collared peccary, red-rumped agouti, capybara, wattled jacanas etc.
67. At times, female Anacondas may even feed on the much smalled male Anacondas. This is basically cannibalism. The other way round never happens. Males cannot eat females.
68. Neonates or juvenile Anacondas can feed on small birds, small fish, juvenile caimans etc.
69. A grown up Anaconda will usually go for a prey that is between 14% and 50% of its own body mass.
70. When massive Anacondas hunt and eat large preys, they will usually go without eating for a few weeks or few months after that. This happens because the rate of metabolism in Anacondas is very low.
Anaconda Facts: 71-75 | How Do they hunt?
71. It is not unusual to see female Anacondas that just gave birth to go for increased rate of feeding. This happens because after they don’t eat during gestation period and until the babies are born. To recover from that, they will feed more frequently.
72. Anacondas are ambush hunters. This means they will not chase and hunt. They will use their body patterns to camouflage in the surroundings and wait for a prey. When the prey is close, the Anaconda will make use of a sudden stealth attack and capture the prey.
73. Anacondas are non-venomous. They are constrictors. This means, they will not kill their prey with venom. They will instead coil around their prey and constrict the prey. The more the prey moves, the stronger the constriction becomes. This eventually means that blood fails to reach the brain of the victim dies of ischemia.
74. Another important thing, the Anacondas usually hunt in waters. This means that the preys often die because of drowning long before they become the victim of ischemia. Also, they constrict their prey so hard that the prey’s bones crush.
75. When they attack and capture their prey, they will usually restrain their prey using their needle sharp teeth so that the prey cannot escape before the snake manages to coil around it.
Anaconda Facts: 76-80 | How do they swallow?
76. Once the predator is dead and no longer moving/struggling, the Anaconda will swallow the prey whole. The snake will start swallowing the victim head first so that the limbs do not become obstruction while ingesting.
77. The jaws of Anacondas are very flexible. The jaws are attached with stretchy ligaments that allows the Anacondas to open their mouth wide open and swallow big preys. As they start swallowing, their muscles contract, compressing the victim so that it gets accommodated within the gut.
78. Also it is interesting to know that Anacondas have two lower jaws that can move independently and are not connected to each other. They alternately use their two lower jaws to pull in the prey as they swallow.
79. Even the teeth play an important role in swallowing. Anacondas have long and sharp teeth. There are in total four rows of teeth on top and two rows on the lower jaws.
80. Of the four rows on top, two rows sit independently on top side of each of the two top jaws. The other two rows of teeth on the top sit down the mouth’s palate. They use their teeth to pull the dead prey in.
Anaconda Facts: 81-85 | Habitat of Anacondas
81. When we say Anaconda Habitat, we usually mean the local conditions and geography of the areas they live in. We don’t mean the areas where they are found. In case you want to know the areas where they live (distribution), read this article.
82. Anacondas live in rives and swamps in tropical areas. They prefer rainforests or grasslands.
83. The areas the live in are usually humid and hot and have dense foliage. Dense foliage allows good cover and camouflage options.
84. The majority of their time is spent lurking in slow-moving streams and sluggish rivers with murky water.
85. They do have a habit of basking in Sun but usually do so on tree branches that hang over water bodies. The reason for this is that they can get into water quickly and easily whenever they need to.
Anaconda Facts: 86-90 | Behavior of Anacondas
86. Anacondas are active primarily during the early evening and also during the night.
87. Anacondas are heavy and big, making it a cumbersome task to move on land. However, they are very swift in water.
88. Anacondas (especially Green ones) are solitary reptiles. They have their own territories. Usually, other Anacondas won’t home into their territories.
89. Anacondas are known for adapting to the environment. During the dry seasons annually, the Anacondas are known for either moving to areas where water is available or they simply bury themselves in mud.
90. In case they bury themselves in mud, they go into a state of dormancy. This means, they will not hunt during this period and come out only when the dry spell is over.
Anaconda Facts: 91-95 | Behavior of Anacondas
91. For those Anacondas that live very close to the Amazon river basin, there is no need for going into a state of dormancy as they have ample water. So, they remain very active throughout the year.
92. Only those Anacondas that the savannas that are seasonally flooded, burying under mud becomes one of the adaptations that Anacondas resort to.
93. It is usually during these dry spells when the male Anacondas go looking for the female Anacondas. This is when the males will travel long distances.
94. However, such movements of the males will happen only after the peak heat for a day passes. So usually, such movements are during early evenings.
95. Anacondas are known to be poikilotherms (that is, their internal body temperature varies significantly depending on the ambient temperature).
Anaconda Facts: 96-100 | Behavior of Anacondas
96. However, they are also known to be able to regulate the temperature of their bodies by changing the changing the surface area of the body part that is exposed to Sun.
97. Basking in the Sun is not uncommon for female Anacondas. They are found basking during the wet seasons. Those that live in the grasslands prefer to stay close to the banks of the rivers and whenever they need to catch some Sun, they will find an elevated area for basking.
98. Those female Anacondas that dwell in the rivers are known for finding dense vegetation and sitting atop that for basking.
99. Basking is usually seen among breeding female Anacondas. Those that are not breeding will not be seen soaking themselves in Sun.
100. Finally, once the breeding season is over, the Anacondas will stop basking in Sun. That’s when they will return to their hunting grounds and become active.
Anaconda Facts: 101-105
101. In the wild, the Anacondas stay alive for 10 years on an average. However, in captivity, these snakes can live up to 30 years.
102. In the savannas, the Anacondas may be smaller and lighter in size and weight respectively compared to those living in the rivers. This is because the availability of food in savannas is strongly seasonal.
103. Neonates (newborn Anacondas) are usually bigger than the babies of most of the snakes in the world.
104. The neonates are merely 1% of the body size of the mother who gives birth to them.
105. Since birth till the time they reach adulthood, the neonates gain about 500% of biomass since their birth.
Anaconda Facts: 106-110
106. Sexual dimorphism becomes visible among Anacondas after they attain the age of 1 year.
107. Male Green Anacondas are known to have a feature of storing sperm for a short period of time. They will empty this storage once mating is completed.
108. Female Green Anacondas will usually, after mating, eat one or two males because after that those females will stay without food for about 7 months.
109. Baby Anacondas are aggressive biters. They are not brightly colored, which tells the natural predators that they are not poisonous.
110. So, in face of imminent threat, the neonates will coil up tightly like a ball and hiss loudly (thanks to their large lungs that allow them to hiss loudly with a deep pitch) and when the predator comes close enough, the neonates will rapidly bite.
Do Anacondas Eat Humans?
The answer to this question is both YES and NO.
YES: Well, there are reports that Anacondas are man-eaters. However, none of them have been verified.
Discovery Channel, in an attempt to prove that Anacondas do eat humans, aired an episode called ‘Eaten Alive’. In that episode, they brought a naturalist called Paul Rosolie.
Paul wore a snake-proof costume, that was meant to protect him from the digestive enzymes in the stomach of an Anaconda.
The snake-proof costume or the armor was also designed to withstand the constriction force and also the powerful bites of the razor-sharp fangs of the Anaconda.
Paul’s suit was covered in pig blood and then Paul (wearing the armor), approached an Anaconda. At first, the Anaconda tried to escape. It didn’t show any interest in eating up Paul.
However, since the channel was hell bent on proving that Anacondas are man-eaters, Paul started provoking the snake. Eventually, the snake struck back and began constricting.
Everything was happing as per plan (apart from the provocation part) and the crew members perhaps had plans of cutting open the snake to revive Paul or perhaps hoped that the snake would regurgitate Paul.
Unfortunately, however, at a certain point, things went bad. The snake’s constriction was too strong for the armor to withstand and Paul started fearing that the constriction would break his arm.
So, he cried out for help and the crew members eventually came to rescue and pulled out Paul
So, the bottom line is that unless badly provoked, Anacondas are absolutely not interested in eating humans.
Discovery Channel made itself a laughing stock for the whole world and yes, the channel came under severe criticism.
Some people even went to the extent saying that they expected and would have been happy to see Paul being crushed to death by the powerful constriction of the Anaconda.
NO: Anacondas are not man-eaters. However, they can actually eat a human because they are known for eating tougher animals having almost the same size as that of humans.
But the Anacondas will not attack humans unless provoked or unless they feel threatened. They will usually shy away or escape.
Moreover, the places where Anacondas live are not human settlement areas. They live in the wild and human encounter is rare to none. So, Anacondas do not look at humans as prey.
The Legendary Giant Anaconda
You must have heard of the legendary Giant Anaconda that is around 40 feet and 60 feet long. Is that legend true? Absolutely not!
At least, there has been no official record to date and the existence of the Giant Anaconda of mythical proportions has stayed pent up in folklore and tales.
No scientific discovery has been made so far. However, while on this topic, it is worth saying that there used to be (now extinct) a species of snake that was around 48 feet long and weighed a whopping 1,135 kilograms.
The snake is known as Titanoboa and it lived some 58 million years ago to 60 million years ago. The only other snake that went even close to the Titanoboa was the Gigantophis (which grew up to 35 feet in length and lived some 40 million years ago).
So, if the legendary Giant Anaconda that people speak of refers to the Titanoboa or the Gigantophis then, those legends and folklores couldn’t be possibly true because the Titanoboa and the Gigantophis – both lived way before humans even evolved on this planet. So no! There is no Giant Anaconda.