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The largest snakes known to man are found in the boa family, with the largest of these being the anaconda or water boa. The scientific name for the anaconda is the eunectes murinus and in most cases no other animal has been the subject of such exaggeration in respect to its size. The word anaconda is said to come from the Tamil words anai for elephant and kolra for killer. Although it is difficult to find an authentic record of the largest anaconda, a measurement of 37 1/2 foot has been widely accepted by some, a length between 23 and 25 feet is more realistic.
Anacondas are olive green with large, round black spots along the length of their body. It has two light longitudinal stripes on its head and is variable in color, as well as size. Anacondas live throughout tropical South American, east of the Andes in the Amazon and Orinoco basins and in the Guianas. It can also be found in the north in Trinidad. The anaconda is the most aquatic of the boas. It is hardly ever found far from water, with sluggish or still waters being their preference. In most cases swamps are the anacondas favorite haunt. These snakes have fixed hunting grounds and they generally live alone although they have, from time to time, been seen in groups. Anacondas are nocturnal, resting during the day in shallow water or sunbathing on low branches over water. On land theses creatures are sluggish but in water they can swim rapidly. It is not uncommon to see an anaconda floating motionless in water while they allow the current to carry them down stream.
The diet of the anaconda consists of birds, small mammals, deer, large rodents and peccaries. It is believed that the anaconda will also eat fish, turtles and caimans. Anacondas are known to hunt actively on land at times and many times kill larger prey by constriction. This is done in such a way that each time its victim exhales, the coils tighten around it so the ribs cannot expand. Most anacondas eat a diet of more frequent smaller meals. Like most snakes the upper and lower jaw of the anaconda are loosely attached so they can swallow their prey whole. Many stories have claimed that victims of anacondas will have every bone in their body broken and the body will be squashed to pulp. This of course is a fallacy since bones are rarely broken during the process used by the anaconda. It is believed this tale has come about due to confusion between freshly killed prey and regurgitated prey.
Although few observations of the breeding cycle of the anaconda have been made, studies in captivity show that the males are aroused by the scent of the females. When courting the male will move along side the female while flicking his tongue over her until his head is resting over her neck until mating is complete. Since anacondas are viviparous it is not unusual for 20 to 100 young to be born in the early part of each year. Baby anacondas are 2 to 3 feet long. It is no surprise that such a large and malevolent looking creature has been the subject of folklore and fallacy. Although little evidence has been found to support many of the anaconda’s feats, it remains branded today as a snake with man-eating habits.