The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Anaconda

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1488113The Encyclopedia Americana — Anaconda

ANACONDA, a South American constricting serpent, the water-boa (Eunectes murinus). This is the largest of the boas (q.v.), and like the Ceylonese python (to which name originally belonged), may exceed 30 feet in length. It inhabits the swampy forests of the Amazonian region, where it is unpleasantly numerous and greatly feared by the natives, although not at all aggressive toward mankind, which it seeks to avoid rather than to attack. Like other boas it may hang from tree-limbs awaiting chance prey passing beneath, which it may seize and, by throwing powerful folds about its body, crush to death, meanwhile holding firmly to its support by its prehensile tail. Having crushed the animal, if large, into a sausage-like mass it descends and slowly swallows it, after which it lies quiet for a long time while the meat is digested. In captivity, for these reptiles are common in zoological gardens, several months sometimes elapse before another meal is wanted. It is rarely found far from water, and the larger part of its time, as a rule, is spent lying in the water or partly submerged on the bank, where it can seize small aquatic animals and swimming birds, which constitute most of its fare. The nostrils in this species open at the top of the snout in adaptation to this aquatic habit. During the day these water-boas live in holes in the bank, whose entrances are likely to be under water, and usually go forth only at night in search of food. Although strong enough to overcome animals as large as a jaguar or a crocodile, it will not attempt to swallow one larger than a medium-sized dog. The females produce their young alive at irregular but long intervals and in varying numbers, one captive specimen in New York yielding 34 at a birth; but few of these survive the risk of drowning or the attacks of eagles, peccaries and other enemies.

The markings of the anaconda are leopard-like, the coat being greenish yellow above with one or sometimes two series of large, blackish cross-spots, and a lateral line of dark spots with white centres. The belly is gray spotted with black.

Ernest Ingersoll.

ANACONDA (Eunectes murinus)