Green anaconda | Wikipedia audio article


The green anaconda (Eunectes murinus), also
known as common anaconda or common 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. The green anaconda’s scientific name is derived
from the Greek εὐνήκτης, meaning “good swimmer”, and the Latin murinus, meaning
“of mice”, for being thought to prey on mice. “The name first was probably from the Sinhala
language of Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, and that in 1869, the Englishman John Ray wrote
of “anacandaia of the Ceylonese, i.e., he that crushes the limbs of the buffaloes and
yoke beasts.” For more than one hundred years the name was
applied to a (python) snake from Ceylon, but in the nineteenth-century experts began to
use it for a snake residing in the Amazon basin.==Description==The green anaconda is the world’s heaviest
and one of the world’s longest snakes, reaching 5.21 m (17.1 ft) long. More typical mature specimens reportedly can
range up to 5 m (16.4 ft), with the females, at around a mean length of 4.6 m (15.1 ft),
being generally much larger in adulthood than the male, which averages around 3 m (9.8 ft). Weights are less well studied, though will
reportedly range from 30 to 70 kg (66 to 154 lb) in an average-range adult. It is the largest snake native to the Americas. Although it is slightly shorter than the reticulated
python, it is far more robust: the bulk of a 4.5 m green anaconda would be comparable
to a 7.4 m reticulated python. Eunectes murinus is probably the heaviest
extant species of snake or squamate in the world, perhaps only rivaled by the Komodo
dragon. Reports of anacondas 35–40 feet or even
longer also exist, but such claims need to be regarded with caution, as no specimens
of such lengths have ever been deposited in a museum and hard evidence is lacking. A $50,000 cash reward is offered for anyone
who can catch an anaconda 30 ft (9.1 m) or longer, but the prize has not been claimed
yet. The longest (and heaviest) verified specimen
encountered by Dr. Jesús Antonio Rivas, who had examined thousands of anacondas, was a
female measuring 5.21 m (17.1 ft) long and weighing 97.5 kg (215 lb). The color pattern consists of olive green
background overlaid with black blotches along the length of the body. The head is narrow compared to the body, usually
with distinctive orange-yellow striping on either side. The eyes are set high on the head, allowing
the snake to see out of the water while swimming without exposing its body.===Difficulties in determining maximum size
===The remote location of the snake’s habitat
has historically made locating, capturing, and returning specimens difficult. Transporting very large specimens to museums,
especially before substantial decay, is difficult (though this has not prevented the return
of much larger and more cumbersome crocodilian specimens). Skins can stretch substantially, increasing
the snake’s size by more than 50% if stretched during the tanning process. Reports without physical proof are considered
dubious if from nonscientists, as such individuals may at worst be more interested in promoting
themselves or telling a good tale, or at the least may not be sufficiently trained in proper
measurement methods. Observational reports of animals which were
not captured are even more dubious, as even trained scientists often substantially overestimate
the size of anacondas prior to capture. According to the Guinness Book of World Records,
this species has been perhaps subject to the most extreme size exaggerations of any living
animal. At the same time, it is difficult to argue
a maximum possible or plausible size, because anacondas are known to continue to grow throughout
their lives. Older reports, in particular, could include
individuals which, in times of less pressure from humans, lived longer lives and thus reached
greater sizes.===Historical records===
Numerous historical accounts of green anacondas are reported, often of improbable sizes. Several zoologists (notably Henry Walter Bates
and Alfred Russel Wallace, among others) note rumors of snakes beyond 30 or 40 feet long,
but in each case, their direct observations were limited to snakes of approximately 20
feet in length. Numerous estimates and second-hand accounts
abound but are generally considered unreliable. To prove the point of overestimating, in Guyana
in 1937, zoologist Alpheus Hyatt Verrill asked the expedition team he was with to estimate
the length of a large, curled-up anaconda on a rock. The team’s guesses ran from 6.1 to 18.3 m
(20.0 to 60.0 ft); when measured, this specimen was found to be 5.9 m (19.4 ft).Almost all
specimens in excess of 6 m (19.7 ft), including a much publicized specimen of 11.36 m (37.3
ft) in length, have no voucher specimens, including skins or bones.The skin of one specimen,
stretched to 10 m (32.8 ft), has been preserved in the Instituto Butantan in São Paulo and
is reported to have come from an anaconda of 7.6 m (24.9 ft) in length.In one of the
most reliable accounts, a geologist killed a large anaconda and measured it using a four-meter
rod, reporting it as three rods long (12 m (39.4 ft)); however, the information was not
published until many years later, and the geologist later suggested he may have misremembered
and the anaconda could have been only two rods long (8 m (26.2 ft)). While in Colombia in 1978, herpetologist William
W. Lamar had an encounter with a large female specimen which measured 7.5 m (24.6 ft) and
was estimated to weigh between 136 and 180 kg (300 and 397 lb). In 1962, W.L. Schurz claimed to have measured
a snake in Brazil of 8.46 m (27.8 ft) with a maximum girth of 112 cm (3.67 ft). One female, reportedly measuring 7.9 m (25.9
ft) in length, shot in 1963 in Nariva Swamp, Trinidad, contained a 1.5-m caiman. A specimen of 7.3 m (24.0 ft), reportedly
with a weight of 149 kg (328 lb), was caught at the mouth of the Kassikaityu River in Guyana,
having been restrained by 13 local men, and was later air-lifted for a zoo collection
in the United States, but died in ill health shortly thereafter. The largest size verified for E. murinus in
captivity was for a specimen kept in Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, which grew to a length
of 6.27 m (20.6 ft) by the time she died on July 20, 1960. When this specimen was 5.94 m (19.5 ft) long,
she weighed 91 kg (201 lb). The estimated weight for an anaconda in the
range of 8 m (26.2 ft) is at least 200 kg (440 lb).National Geographic has published
a weight of up to 227 kg (500 lb) for E. murinus, but this is almost certainly a mere estimation. Weight can vary considerably in large specimens
depending on environmental conditions and recent feedings, with Verrill’s aforementioned
specimen, having been extremely bulky, scaled at 163 kg (359 lb), whereas another specimen
considered large at 5.06 m (16.6 ft), weighed only 54 kg (119 lb).===Current estimates of maximal size===
Size presents challenges to attain breeding condition in larger female anacondas. While larger sizes provide the benefit of
a larger number of offspring per clutch, the breeding frequency of the individuals reduces
with size, indicating that there is a point at which the advantage of a larger clutch
size is negated by the female no longer being able to breed. For the anaconda, this limit was estimated
at approximately 6.7 m (22.0 ft) in total length. This is consistent with the results of a revision
of the size at maturity and maximum size of several snakes from North America, which found
that the maximum size is between 1.5 and 2.5 the size at maturity. The minimum size of breeding anacondas in
a survey of 780 individuals was 2.1 m (6.9 ft) in snout-vent length, indicating that
maximum size attained by anacondas following this pattern would be 5.3 m (17.4 ft) in snout-vent
length. However, most anacondas are captured from
the llanos, which is more accessible to humans and has smaller prey available, while the
rainforest, which is much less explored and has more plentiful large prey, may be home
to larger snakes.==Scientific and common names==In the famous 10th edition of Systema Naturae
of 1758, Carl Linnaeus cited descriptions by Albertus Seba and by Laurens Theodorus
Gronovius to erect the distinct species murina of his new genus Boa, which contained eight
other species, including Boa constrictor. The generic name Boa came from an ancient
Latin word for a type of large snake. The first specimens of Boa murina were of
immature individuals from 2.5 to 3.0 feet (75 to 90 cm) in length. In 1830, Johann Georg Wagler erected the separate
genus Eunectes (“good swimmer” in Greek) for Linnaeus’s Boa murina after more and larger
specimens were known and described. Because of the masculine gender of Eunectes,
the feminine Latin specific name murina was changed to murinus. Linnaeus almost certainly chose the scientific
name Boa murina based on the original Latin description given by A. Seba in 1735: “Serpens
testudinacea americana, murium insidiator” [tortoise-patterned (spotted) American snake,
a predator that lies in wait for mice (and rats)]. The Latin adjective murinus (murina) in this
case would mean “of mice” or “connected with mice,” understood in context as “preying on
mice”, and not as “mouse-gray-colored” (another possible meaning of Latin murinus) as now
often wrongly indicated for E. murinus. Early English-language sources, such as George
Shaw, referred to the Boa murina as the “rat boa” and the Penny Cyclopaedia (Vol. 5) entry
for boa explained: “The trivial name murina was given to it from being said to lie in
wait for mice.” Linnaeus described the appearance of the Boa
murina in Latin as rufus maculis supra rotundatis [reddish-brown with rounded spots on upper
parts] and made no reference to a gray coloration. Early descriptions of the green anaconda by
different authors variously referred to the general color like brown, glaucous, green,
or gray. Common names for E. murinus include green
anaconda, anaconda, common anaconda, and water boa.==Distribution and habitat==
Eunectes murinus is found in South America east of the Andes, in countries including
Colombia, Venezuela, the Guianas, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, the island of Trinidad,
and as far south as northern Paraguay. The type locality given is “America”.Anacondas
live in swamps, marshes, and slow-moving streams, mainly in the tropical rainforests 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 lie in wait for prey while remaining nearly completely
submerged.==Behavior==The primarily nocturnal anaconda species tend
to spend most of its life in or around water. Anacondas are also sometimes known as the
water boa; they spend more time in the water than any of the boas. They seem rather slow and sluggish when traveling
on land due to their size, although they have the potential to reach high speeds in the
water. They tend to float beneath the surface of
the water with their snouts above the surface. When prey passes by or stops to drink, the
anaconda will strike (without eating or swallowing it) and coil around it with its body. The snake will then constrict until it has
suffocated the prey.===Feeding===Primarily aquatic, they eat a wide variety
of prey, almost anything they can manage to overpower, including fish, birds, a variety
of mammals, and other reptiles. Particularly large anacondas may consume large
prey such as tapirs, deer, capybaras, caimans, and even jaguars, but such large meals are
not regularly consumed. The green anaconda’s eyes and nose are located
on the top of the head, allowing the snake to breathe and watch for prey while the vast
majority of the body is hidden underwater. Many local stories and legends report the
anaconda as a man-eater, but little evidence supports any such activity. They employ constriction to subdue their prey. Cannibalism among green anacondas is also
known, most recorded cases involving a larger female consuming a smaller male. While the exact reason for this is not understood,
scientists cite several possibilities, including the dramatic sexual dimorphism in the species,
and the possibility that a female anaconda requires additional food intake after breeding
to sustain the long period of gestation. The nearby male simply provides the opportunistic
female a ready source of nutrition.===Reproduction===This species is solitary until the mating
season, which occurs during the rainy season, and can last for several months, usually from
April to May. During this time, males must find females. Typically, female snakes will lay down a trail
of pheromones for the males to follow, but it is still unclear how the males of this
species track a female’s scent. Another possibility is that the female releases
an airborne stimulant. This theory is supported by the observation
of females that remain motionless while many males move towards them from all directions. Male anacondas also frequently flick their
tongues to sense chemicals that signal the presence of the female.Many males can often
find the same female. Although it may not be necessary for there
to be more than one male, this results in odd clusters referred to as “breeding balls”,
in which up to 12 males wrap around the same female and attempt to copulate. The group could stay in this position from
two to four weeks. This ball acts as a slow-motion wrestling
match between the males, each one fighting for the opportunity to mate with the female. During mating, males make use of their spurs
to arouse the female. They aggressively press their cloacal regions
hard against the female body, while continuously scratching her with their spurs. This can produce a scratching sound. Mating approaches its climax when the stimulus
of the males’ spurs induces the female snake to raise her cloacal region, allowing the
cloacae of the two snakes to move together. The male then coils his tail, surrounding
the female and they copulate. The strongest and largest male is often the
victor. However, females are physically much larger
and stronger and may decide to choose from among the males. Courtship and mating occur almost exclusively
in water. Mating is followed by a gestation period that
lasts about six to seven months. The species is ovoviviparous, with females
giving birth to live young. Litters usually consist of 20 to 40 offspring,
although as many as 100 may be produced. After giving birth, females may lose up to
half their weight. Neonates (babies) are around 70–80 cm long
and receive no parental care. Because of their small size, they often fall
prey to other animals. Should they survive, they grow rapidly until
they reach sexual maturity in their first few years, after which their rate of growth
continues at a slower pace.However, when no male anacondas are available to provide offspring
facultative parthenogenesis is possible. In August 2014 West Midlands Safari Park announced
that on 12 August 2014 a female Green anaconda, which was being kept with another female anaconda,
through parthenogenesis had given birth to three young.==Captivity==
One may reasonably maintain an average and acceptable temperature for the snake by the
use of a heating element or infrared light bulbs. A gradient must be offered within the enclosure
to allow the snake to bask in the heat or go to cooler areas in the tank. Optimum humidity can be difficult to maintain
and research must be done on the snake to determine the correct level. More than 80% humidity must be maintained
for caging an anaconda species from the tropical region, while a slightly less than 30% humidity
must be maintained for a species of a desert region. Photoperiods are often used with most species
of snake; natural light is best for this, but low UV percentage bulbs can also be used. Captive anacondas have a reputation for unpredictability
and aggression due to the temperaments of wild-caught specimens first collected for
captive breeding, but with proper care, green anacondas can and do make for calm, relatively
sedate pets. Due to their immense size and power, however,
proper respect and caution should always be maintained, and they are best left to experienced
adult owners who can provide them with the proper requirements.==In popular culture==Anacondas have been portrayed in horror literature
and film, often with the ability to swallow adult humans; these traits are occasionally
also attributed to other species, such as the Burmese python and the boa constrictor
(though the latter does not grow to a large enough size to kill and swallow a human). Among the most popular such films is the 1997
film, Anaconda, and its three sequels. This species is also the main antagonist in
Mathias Bradley’s novel, Anacondas: The Terror of the Amazon Rainforest, in which multiple
hybrid anacondas escape from a research facility in the Amazon Rainforest and come into contact
with a toxic chemical that causes them to rapidly mutate into gigantic snakes. A more positive depiction of the anaconda
exists in the short stories Anaconda and El Regreso de Anaconda (“The Return of Anaconda”)
by Horacio Quiroga, which are told from the anaconda’s point of view.==See also==
List of boine species and subspecies Boinae by common name
Boinae by taxonomic synonyms

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