Monday, July 6, 2015

The mythology of the internet: world’s largest snake

For the last few days, reports and photographs of a snake 134 feet in length and weighing more than 2000 kgs are circulating on social networks. You have also probably seen these reports. They further claim that the snake is an Anaconda residing in Africa’s Amazon River; and it has killed 257 human beings and 2325 animals.
Well, well, first a small geographical correction is in order – the river Amazon is in South America, not in Africa. After this bit of geography, we can turn to the biology.
Anaconda is a genus of snakes that includes many species. All these species are found in the continent of South America. They are aquatic animals, mostly dwelling, hunting and breeding in rivers. One of the species, the Green Anaconda, represents some of the world’s longest and heaviest snakes.
However, the length and weight does not reach anywhere the figures we read in the above news. Typical green anacondas are only (!!) 20 feet in length, with weights in the vicinity of 200 kgs. Anacondas reaching 25 feet have been recorded, but no anaconda longer than 30 feet has ever been reliably found.
Python is another type of snakes whose members reach enormous lengths. They are actually longer than anacondas, but much lighter. Pythons are residents of South East Asian countries like Burma (Myanmar), Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.
But even longest recorded Pythons have been in the range of 25-28 feet. So, no snake in currently existing species has ever exceeded 30 feet in length.
For the above reports to be true, the snake has to be more than four times the longest snake ever known. As far as we can see, these are false reports and the photos must have been doctored.
What do you make of the claims made about the snake eating 2325 animals? Isn't it rather difficult to track the number of animals eaten by any snake, unless it is in zoo, or it has been dutifully reporting details of each of its meal to zealous internet aficionados?
Lastly, anacondas (and pythons) are known to attack human beings, but such attacks are extremely rare, no matter what you have seen in the three Anaconda movies

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