The anaconda strangles prey by coiling its muscular body around it, cutting off blood flow and squeezing it till it can no longer breathe. The animal is then swallowed whole. Even prey as huge as a caiman or jaguar are no problem, thanks to the large, flexible ligaments and mobile joints in the anaconda’s jaws. Stretchy allows the anaconda to accumulate its meal by contorting its body. Depending on the size of the prey, it can take anything from a few days to a couple of weeks for the anaconda to digest its prey. After a particularly big meal, the anaconda can fast for weeks or months.
Largest of them all
The anaconda is known as the world’s heaviest snake based on its length-to-weight ratio. The biggest on record was 227 kg – the weight of three adult men! With a diameter of 30cm – an average person’s waistline – it has the greatest girth in proportion to length of any snake. This heavy-duty snake may be slow on land but it can move swiftly in water. It prefers to be in or near water, spending a large part of its time in the still waters that help hide and support its huge body. The hot, humid South American lowlands that make up its habitat offer excellent cover for this large snake. Females are typically much larger than males.
Having a ball
Up to 12 males wrap themselves around a female to form a ‘breeding ball’, wrestling for a chance to mate with her. After several weeks, only one male emerges as the winner. The anaconda gives birth to live young. Embryos develop inside the mother, attached to a yolk sac and surrounded by a membrane. The baby anacondas are born enveloped by the membrane, which they must break free of on their own. An anaconda mother can give birth to over 40 babies in a litter. She will expel and consume all undeveloped eggs and stillbirths during birth. Baby anacondas must fend for themselves and many fall prey to piranhas, caimans and storks.