Are Anacondas Poisonous?

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“They strike, wrap around you. Hold you tighter than your true love. And you get the privilege of hearing your bones break before the power of embrace causes your veins to explode.” – Goes the famous dialogue from the movie Anaconda. This surely sends shivers done our spine. Their massive size and aggressive behavior can kill the weak-hearted.

Are the Anacondas poisonous, and do they kill with their bite? Let us explore this more in detail.

The Mighty Anacondas

  • The Anacondas are part of the Boidae family and are non – venomous snakes. There are four species of anacondas – the green anaconda, the yellow anaconda, the dark-spotted anaconda, and the Beni anaconda. They live in marshy swampy areas of the dense forests of South America. The hot and humid weather, along with dense foliage, makes it the ideal habitat of the Anaconda. Their life span is about 10 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity.
  • It is an aquatic animal and an excellent swimmer. They get their name from the Greek word “Eunectes,” meaning good swimmer. Their eyes and nostrils are on the top of the head, so Anacondas can see and breathe above the waterline even when its body is fully submerged. Did you know that Anacondas can remain submerged in water for 10 minutes at a time? This way, they lay still and wait for their prey.
  • Anacondas generally live in rivers, swamps, and marshes in the tropical rain forests of Amazon. They are sometimes found basking in the sun close to rivers or streams or hanging from trees near the river beds.
  • The Green Anacondas can grow up to 32 feet in length, can weigh around 550 pounds, and they can have a width of around 30 centimeters in diameter. They are one of the heaviest and largest snakes. Can you even imagine how massive this is? The female snakes are generally bigger and heavier than the male snakes.
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What do Anacondas eat?

The Anacondas feed on aquatic animals like fishes and reptiles like caimans. They also eat rodents, birds, deer, sheep, dogs, turtles, wild pigs, tapirs, peccaries, and capybaras. Sometimes they eat jaguars. They have stretchy ligaments in the jaws, which helps them to swallow big prey as a whole.  

  • While movies claim that Anacondas are man-eaters, this is still largely unverified. Though Anacondas can attack humans, and this can be dangerous, but there is very little probability that they will hunt for humans. They could attack humans when provoked or when they feel threatened, but otherwise, they are considered to be shy solitary reptiles. 
  • Anacondas have a very slow digestive system, and it can take an anaconda several days to weeks to digest their food. They cannot move very fast after a large meal as the weight of the food affects their movement. They expend a lot of energy to digest the food. The Anacondas generally move to a safe and warm place to digest their food. They require the warmth to speed up the metabolism An interesting fact is that anacondas can go without food for up to a year after having a very large meal. The female anacondas do not eat when they are pregnant to avoid any possible injury to the young.
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Are Anacondas poisonous? How do they kill their prey?

  • Anacondas are non-venomous snakes. All four species of Anacondas are not venomous. Anacondas can still bite, and they do have fangs. But being nonvenomous, they do not inject any venom when they bite. They conquer the prey with their enormous size and power. They use constriction to kill their prey. Some species of the anacondas like the green anacondas are also capable of killing their prey by drowning them in water.
  • The anacondas have more than a hundred extremely sharp teeth. Towards the back of the throat, their teeth are curved. Anacondas do not use their teeth for chewing, they use it for clutching or holding onto their prey. As they are non-venomous, a bite by the Anaconda would itself not be life-threatening. 
  • Anacondas are known for their swift movement in the water. When an Anaconda sights the prey, they swim swiftly but quietly towards the prey. At the opportune moment, they strike and bite the prey. Locking in their bite, the Anaconda wraps its muscular, powerful body around the prey. Their body is also very flexible due to the presence of a large number of short vertebrae along the spine. They then begin to tighten their hold around the prey until the prey becomes lifeless.
  • Initially, it was thought that the hard tight squeezing killed the prey. Further studies on how squeezing can kill the prey led to a fascinating revelation. The Anacondas constriction caused circulatory arrest, that is, the blood circulation in the body shuts down. The blood flow to the major organs like the brain, liver, and heart is cut down by the tight squeezing. The heartbeat then becomes erratic, and the snake continues to apply increasing pressure. The Anaconda applies pressure until it feels the heartbeat falter and then stop. Then it begins to relax its muscles and starts to swallow the prey in whole.
  • Anacondas have flexible jaws. The jawbones are not rigidly attached to the skull, and they have elastic ligaments. This allows them to open their mouths very wide and swallow prey bigger than the size of their mouths.
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The large size and unpredictable behavior of the Anacondas make them even more fascinating. A lot of studies and research have gone into understanding these giant species of snakes. Several television shows also have capitalized on the fear element and tried to experiment with the Anacondas. But be assured that they are happy in their territory if left undisturbed and are not a threat as portrayed. So the next time you head out for an Amazon river cruise, do not be scared for you now know what to expect!