Ophidiophobics may hate this article! All I can do for them is appeal to them to not be filled with dread or hate snakes.. but beyond that I can only pity them for not admiring the beauty of snakes!
We would have to clearly differentiate the phobia of snakes, if it is fearing them for their venom or the inherent danger involved.. or just hate the sight of snakes and loathe them because they slither and whatever dumb 'reasons' one could give!
Snakes aren't dirty creatures or monsters that're on a constant move to kill us/eat us/bite us. Infact, to them, we are the monsters. By raising their hoods (in case of cobras) or hissing or rattling their tails or by puffing, they don't mean to harm anybody, but indeed are trying to give a warning message to stay out of their way, it well means they are defending themselves.
People get bitten only after they've encroached into their spaces and have startled the snakes and snakes presume it a potential harm to their life. And it is Nature's gift to every life that every life in its own form comes with a natural armour -"inbuilt" in techno terminology - be it strength or venom. This is merely for protection sake and for no fun, alright!
All said and done. Keeping aside the ophidiophobics, let's look into one of the amazing snakes that by size and strength has earned the name of the largest and the longest snake on the face of the earth! Yes!!! I am talking about the Anaconda!
Anaconda belongs to the genus Eunectes, could vary in species. South America’s green anaconda is, pound for pound, the largest snake in the world. Green anacondas can grow to more than 29 feet (8.8 meters), weigh more than 550 pounds (227 kilograms), and measure more than 12 inches (30 centimeters) in diameter. Females are significantly larger than males - they have to be! For how else would they give birth to nearly or more than three dozen live young ones!
Anacondas prefer to live in swamps, marshes, slow moving streams like the tropical rain forests of the Amazon. On land, they are cumbersome. Imagine a 30 feet long 230 kgs heavy body struggling to push itself forward! It could well possibly make a meal of itself if the vultures, or any other predator for that matter, come in a huge gang!
Dirty water is obviously lot more a better place than the land that unravels danger. Not that the dirty water offers a safe place. Danger lurks everywhere! But with a colossal predator like this one, even danger would be willingly ready to take a back seat itself!
From hunting to eating to mating.. it is all king size. huuuuuuuuuge (somehow, I wanted to give a magnanimous effect to it, and thus the extra 'u's :-D ). They are monumental! They are constrictors. To exactly mean - squeeze every breath out of the victim. It is excruciating, and the victim dies of suffocation. The non-venomous anaconda is gifted with power, it constricts its victim till the heartbeat and the breath of the victim stop. And what after that? SWALLOW IT WHOLE! More than 6 hours to just swallow (ingest) if the victim is a large mammal. No part of the victim is torn apart, everything goes in - from fur to horns to tail- literally everything! And the powerful digestive juices take care of digesting all what it's eaten - of course for months together. It needn't eat often. Stories of man being eaten, buffaloes being swallowed whole - are a possible reality. Boas are capable of this. But swallowing whole obviously renders the bulky snake immovable, and thus making it vulnerable to other predator attacks! Well, all's fair in the predator-prey game!!!!
This video takes you through the hunting tactics of the anaconda!
That was hunting and eating. Come to think of mating. It's a tremendous job that could last upto a week! The female needs to eat before she chooses to mate, it makes sense too. She would have to go hungry for almost 7 months after mating. Unlike fight for female that happens in most of the animals, anacondas are more intelligent in this matter though! Several males could get together to 'do it'.
The pheromone molecules help the male get near the female. Harmonious and generous mating I would like to call it, upto a dozen males may roll themselves around in this responsible and tiring job- mating! It is famously known as the 'Breeding ball'.
Take a look - a 'diligent' look at this mating video!!!
That female was more than happy! Wasn't she?! Her looks spoke volumes! Who says animals couldn't express ;-)
Gestation is a testing time like it is for any female impregnated with life! This mother is no exception to it.
The anaconda is ovoviviparous. We know of viviparous (embryo within mother's body and the mother gives live birth) and oviparous (egg-laying, no embryonic development within the mother). But this is yet another strategy of giving birth. Here, little miniatures develop within eggs that remain within the mother's body till they hatch out as live (or in some cases still births) young ones. Unlike in viviparity, there's no embryo but rather the nourishment comes by the egg yolk. This is the beauty of life! There's no embryo but there's gas exchange happening for the survival of the tiny ones about to breathe into the world. How? The mother's body provides the gas exchange facility.
The beauty of life seems to have surprises. No marks for guessing mother's job of care taking ends as soon as the babies are out! They have to be on themselves immediately after they are out of their mother's warmth. She has had a long starved gestation, unlike the human mothers that are loaded with nutritious food till they have puked out all the extra!
The anaconda mothers may have to go without food from almost the time after mating till they have 'outsourced' the offspring.
Wooah! It's certainly not easy to lose almost a third of the body weight in producing almost 40 young ones each around 2 metres in length! She could gulp in some decayed or undeveloped or still born babies, for she has to withstand the pain she's gone through and go on for a kill.
After the birth, the little ones driven by instincts are on their own!! The little ones are real vulnerable to predator attacks, but for the ones that make it, no predator is big in its front!
Take a look at the video showing the birth of live (and some unfortunate ones that couldn't make it) and the challenge immediately after they come to life! A zillion thanks to the documentary maker who's excellence is shown in sneaking into the beauty of the anaconda life!
You can't be unfazed by this tremendous beauty and its behaviour! Everything about it is so colossal! That's the ANACONDA for you. We can't help but to wonder how the creature manages to grow that huge and survive so perfectly in the wild. Nature certainly holds the key to every problem encountered, in the due course of evolution, She has perfectly granted every creature its self-defense and key to survival in its own way!
In the next episode of Animal Behaviour - some more amazing and bewildering behaviourial facts about animals!