National Geographic News


The anaconda is the largest snake in the world judging by weight, though the Asiatic reticulated python is longer. Anacondas can grow up to 29 feet (9 meters) long, weigh up to 550 pounds (250 kilograms), and measure 12 inches (30 centimeters) in diameter. This large girth means that anacondas can eat large prey like tapirs, deer, sheep, and dogs—and occasionally jaguars or humans—in addition to smaller prey. It kills its prey by wrapping around them and squeezing, suffocating them.

The name "anaconda" comes from the Tamil word anaikolra, which means "elephant killer." It is uncertain how a word from the island of Sri Lanka, near India, came to be applied to a snake that lives in the Amazon basin of South America, though it may be because of the anaconda's similarity to Asian pythons.

Photograph courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration

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