The green anaconda (Eunectes murinus), also known as the common anaconda and water boa, is a non-venomous boa species found in South America. It is the heaviest and one of the longest known extant snake species. The term anaconda often refers to this species, though the term could also apply to other members of the genus Eunectes.
A member of the boa family, South America’s green anaconda is, pound for pound, the largest snake in the world. Its cousin, the reticulated python, can reach slightly greater lengths, but the enormous girth of the anaconda makes it almost twice as heavy.
Green anacondas can grow to more than 29 feet (8.8 meters), weigh more than 550 pounds (227 kilograms), and measure more than 12 inches (30 centimeters) in diameter. Females are significantly larger than males. Other anaconda species, all from South America and all smaller than the green anaconda, are the yellow, dark-spotted, and Bolivian varieties.
Anacondas live in swamps, marshes, and slow-moving streams, mainly in the tropical rain forests of the Amazon and Orinoco basins. They are cumbersome on land, but stealthy and sleek in the water. Their eyes and nasal openings are on top of their heads, allowing them to lay in wait for prey while remaining nearly completely submerged.
They reach their monumental size on a diet of wild pigs, deer, birds, turtles, capybara, caimans, and even jaguars. Anacondas are nonvenomous constrictors, coiling their muscular bodies around captured prey and squeezing until the animal asphyxiates. Jaws attached by stretchy ligaments allow them to swallow their prey whole, no matter the size, and they can go weeks or months without food after a big meal.
Female anacondas retain their eggs and give birth to two to three dozen live young. Baby snakes are about 2 feet (0.6 meters) long when they are born and are almost immediately able to swim and hunt. Their lifespan in the wild is about ten years.
With an average length of 6 m (20 ft.) and a top length of 8.8 m (29 ft.) the green anaconda is one of the longest snakes in the world. The green anaconda, with a girth of nearly 30 cm (12 in.) and a weight of 227 kg (550 lb.), is the heaviest of all snakes.
The green anaconda is native to South America, making its home in swamps, marshes and streams. Their enormous size makes it much easier for green anacondas to swim in the water than to slither slowly on land. Their eyes and nostrils are on the top of their head allowing them to see and breathe while most of their body is under water.
Most of their time is spent in the water hunting. Although they use both sight and smell to hunt, they also have the ability to sense heat emitted by potential prey. Green anacondas prey on a variety of animals including fish, birds, tapirs, wild pigs, capybaras, and caimans (reptiles similar to alligators). They’ve even been known to eat jaguars.
Anacondas are not venomous; they use constriction instead to subdue their prey. Once an anaconda sights its target, it will grab the animal in its jaws, locking it in with its teeth. Once firmly grasped, the anaconda will coil around the prey and squeeze it until it dies of crushing or suffocation. It will then consume the carcass whole. For larger prey, the green anaconda can unhinge its jaw to stretch its mouth around the body. After a big meal, anacondas can go weeks without eating again.
Green anacondas have also been known to partake in cannibalism. Females, the larger of the sexes, have been reported to eat smaller male anacondas.
Green anacondas spend most of their time alone. However, between April and May, males seek out females for the opportunity to mate. Often times, multiple males will pursue the same female. This results in “breeding balls” of up to a dozen males wrapped around a single female, all attempting to mate. The breeding ball can last up to 4 weeks.
Once pregnant, the female will produce eggs inside her body. The eggs develop for 8-12 weeks and then hatch while still inside the mother’s body. She then gives birth to as many as 80 tiny snakes, each 30-60 cm (12-24 in.) in length.
Green anacondas can live over 10 years in the wild. They can live up to 30 in captivity.
Anacondas are sometimes hunted illegally for their skin or to be sold as pets, but this is rare. Their size makes them inconvenient pets, and their skin is not very popular for clothing and shoes. They are also very difficult to catch.
Another threat they face is habitat destruction. Despite this they are not considered endangered.
Green Anaconda Distribution
The green anaconda is native to South America, making its home in swamps, marshes and streams.