Anacondas: The hunt for the blood orchid; was a movie that sent chills down my spine! Every time the anaconda came on screen I either closed my eyes or moved in my seat. I must confess that I had many sleepless nights after that. Today when I am in a position to write about the anaconda, I am able to view things from a different perspective. It would be wrong of me if I say that this member of the boa family does not frighten me anymore, but yes, I have learned that every living thing needs to survive and each finds its own way of doing so!
The green anaconda belongs to the kingdom anamalia, phylum chordata , genus eunectes and species Eunectes murinus. Known as the largest snake in the world, the green anaconda can grow to more than 29 feet and weighs and measures more than 550 pounds and 12 inches respectively, with the female being significantly larger.
Life span and Group Name
The group name of the anaconda is bed or knot. These snakes are able to survive for about 10 years in the wild.
As the name suggests, the green anaconda is olive green in color with black blotches that run through the length of its body. The head of the green anaconda is narrower than the rest of its body and has a distinctive orange-yellow striping on either side.
Apart from the physical features mentioned above, the green anaconda also has scales. Spurs (small appendages that resemble claws) are located on either side of the cloaca (this is the cavity in which the genito-urinary and intestinal tracts empty). This is the only area that does not have scales and emits a foul-smelling toffee colored musk that is poisonous to small organisms. It is assumed that this may be a way of preventing leeches and ticks from attaching themselves to the cloaca. Very much like the fingerprint of a human, the pattern of scales found along the yellow and black underside of the lower tail is unique to each snake.
Green anacondas can be found mainly in marshes, swamps and slow-moving streams in the Amazon and Orinoco basins of northern South America, in Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, northeast Peru, Guyana, northern Bolivia and the island of Trinidad. Stealthy and sleek in the water, these reptiles are able to lie completely submerged in water because of the eyes and nasal openings that are located on top of their heads. When the green anaconda is not in the water it can be found hanging in trees. It captures its prey from above and coils around it till it is helpless.
These reptiles are non poisonous and live on a diet of deer, birds, turtles, caimans, capybara, jaguars and wild pigs. Confirmed reports also state that the green anaconda occasionally prey on jaguars and attack humans too. Baby anacondas feed on rats, chicks, frogs, fish and mice.
Green anacondas are able to swallow preys that are much larger than their mouths as they are able to unhinge their jaws. Swallowing their prey head first, their muscles contract in waves as swallowing occurs. These snakes have a slow-acting digestive system, which often takes days or weeks. A big meal often lasts the anaconda weeks and months.
The green anaconda is ovoviviparous (develops within eggs that remain in the mother's body until they are ready to hatch). The rainy season is when copulation takes place mainly in the water, with the gestation period lasting for about 6 months. During this season, many competing males form a breeding ball around one female. Resembling a slow-motion wrestling match among the males for the opportunity to mate, this scenario lasts for up to four weeks. The strongest of the male anacondas is the one to win, of course unless the female, who is larger and stronger, chooses a certain male.
Female anacondas give birth to about two to three dozen young ones. When born, each baby snake is about 2 feet long and takes to the water immediately. These snakes grow rapidly in the first few years. After this period, the rate of growth continues at a slower pace.