Throughout history, humans have been both fascinated and terrified by snakes in equal measure. Perhaps the most fascinating trait about snakes is how large they can get. But is there any truth in the Anaconda movie? Is there a snake that can gobble down a human being?
When determining how large a snake is, we will consider both length and weight. Using those metrics, long venomous snakes such as the king cobra cannot make this list, as they are simply too slender and lightweight to take on anything larger than rodents and other snakes.
When it comes to pure size, large constrictors such as boas, pythons, and anacondas take the cake. Constrictors do not have venom. Instead, they kill by coiling around their prey and squeezing it until it suffocates. All the snakes on this list come from that family. Without further ado, let’s get down to business.
The 7 Largest Snakes in the World
1. Green Anaconda
Measuring up to 29 feet long and weighing as much as 550 pounds, the green anaconda is undeniably the undisputed king of snakes. This monstrosity is so big and heavy that it has adapted to aquatic life, making its home in rivers, swamps, and marshes, as swimming is much easier than dragging its heavy frame on land. As a result, green anacondas have evolved to have their eyes and nostrils on top of their head so they can breathe and see while the rest of their body is underwater.
The green anaconda is native to the jungles of South America, where it is the apex predator. Using sight, smell, and heat detection, no animal in the Amazon rainforest is safe, including jaguars. Nonetheless, its most common prey include capybaras, caimans (a crocodilian species), wild pigs, birds, and tapirs. These snakes are infamous for their cannibalistic tendencies, with large females consuming smaller males. In the world of green anacondas, females are the larger sex.
As with other boas, green anacondas kill their prey through constriction, which involves coiling around their prey and squeezing them to death. This is then followed by consuming the dead animal headfirst. Again, like other constrictors, the green anaconda’s jaws are detachable, allowing them to swallow large prey. After consuming a large meal, green anacondas can go for weeks or even months without eating.
Green anacondas live solitary lives, only seeking each other out to mate. Unlike other snakes, they give birth to live little ones, which can be as many as 80. Thankfully, the green anaconda is not an endangered species.
2. Reticulated Python
Native to southeastern Asia, the reticulated python is one big and beautiful constrictor. The incredibly striking network-like pattern on its skin is described as “reticulate”, hence the name of the animal. Unfortunately, that beautiful skin is the reason for their misery, as it fetches a pretty penny in the commercial skin trade. Despite that, however, they are not an endangered species.
Reaching lengths of up to 33 feet, reticulated pythons are the world’s longest snakes. While the average reticulate python tends to be longer than the average green anaconda, anacondas are wider, stronger, and significantly outweigh reticulates. This is why reticulates are not the largest of the snakes.
Reticulated pythons use smell and infrared to look for prey. Like other constrictors, they squeeze their prey to the point of asphyxiation and then swallow it whole. Their diet typically includes rodents, boar, deer, and birds.
Reticulates have a reputation for being aggressive, which is why they are not popular pet snakes.
3. Burmese Python
Burmese pythons are among the most misunderstood animals in the United States. Their ability to adapt, thrive, and drive certain species in the Everglades to near extinction has given them a bad rap.
Nonetheless, from an evolutionary standpoint, they are a classic example of a successful species. With their beautiful patterns and relatively docile temperament, Burmese pythons are the ideal species for people looking to keep a large snake as a pet. However, when they reach their peak size of up to 23 feet, inexperienced owners find it too difficult or dangerous to care for them and often opt to release them into the wild.
Burmese pythons are masters of all terrains. When young, they lead an arboreal lifestyle, mainly hanging out in trees. However, as they mature, their increasing size and weight force them to become ground dwellers.
They are fantastic swimmers, too, and have the ability to hold their breath for up to 30 minutes. This means that even water-dwelling creatures are not safe from this constrictor. In fact, in the Everglades, Burmese pythons battle and eat alligators regularly.
Burmese pythons live solitary lives, only meeting during spring to mate. Females lay up to 100 eggs, which take 3 months to incubate. Unfortunately, due to rampant hunting, Burmese pythons are considered a threatened species.
4. African Rock Python
While some African rock pythons can grow to become larger than Burmese pythons, on average, Burmese pythons tend to be larger. This is why we ranked them higher.
Nonetheless, African rock pythons are Africa’s largest snakes. They inhabit Sub-Saharan Africa, utilizing rocky outcrops for hideouts. However, they also reside near water bodies, waylaying thirsty, unsuspecting animals. Arboreal animals are not safe either, as rock pythons are adept climbers.
Like other snakes, African rock pythons are solitary creatures, only seeking out their kind for mating purposes. Unlike most other reptilians, rock pythons are nocturnal snakes. However, juveniles tend to be active at dusk and dawn.
When younger, they prey on small animals such as lizards and rodents. Upon reaching adult size, however, almost every other animal on the continent is fair game with the exception of large carnivores and herbivores.
African rock pythons make for bad pets due to their aggressive disposition. They are increasingly being hunted for their meat and skin.
5. Indian Python
Despite being named the “Indian” python, this constrictor’s range extends as far north as China’s Sichuan province and as far south as the island of Borneo. The Indian python is an extremely adaptable snake, thriving in a wide variety of habitats, including rainforests, scrublands, woodlands, rocky foothills, and grassy marshes. However, it seems to prefer damp terrains.
Interestingly, the Burmese python is a subspecies of the Indian python, which is why they bear such a striking resemblance to each other; they both sport a rectangular mosaic-like pattern on their hides. However, Burmese pythons tend to be darker and attain greater sizes.
Like green anacondas, Indian python females are larger than males. They live solitary lives, too, only meeting to mate. A female Indian python can lay up to 100 eggs at a go, each weighing about 7.3 ounces.
Unlike some of their cousins, Indian pythons are incredibly timid, preferring to flee when attacked. Another unusual trait about these serpents is that they move in a straight line, often referred to as “walking on ribs.”
Indian pythons’ main diet consists mainly of amphibians, birds, and small mammals and reptiles.
6. Amethystine (Scrub) Python
The amethystine python gets its name from the amethyst-like color of its scales. In northern Australia, it is known as the “scrub” python, as it mostly lives in the scrublands of that region.
Like its cousins, the amethystine python is remarkably adaptable, with its range spreading across most of Oceania.
Scrub pythons are also solitary creatures and prefer to hunt at night. As juveniles, they lead an arboreal lifestyle, only becoming ground dwellers when they reach adulthood. As is the case with most pythons, scrubs are also excellent swimmers, allowing them to expand their menu to include water-dwelling animals.
Amethystine pythons use the “sit and wait” tactic to capture prey. This involves remaining motionless in a spot where their scales allow them to blend into the environment, only to strike with astonishing speed to any prey that is unfortunate enough to cross their path.
Female amethystine pythons lay clutches of up to 20 eggs in one season. While that seems little compared to other python species that can lay up to 100 eggs in one go, the scrub python’s numbers remain stable.
- See Also: Python vs Boa: What’s the Difference?
7. Yellow Anaconda
Native to South America, the yellow anaconda is a big snake in its own right, routinely attaining lengths of up to 15 feet and weighing up to 121 pounds. Yellow is the dominant color on its color pattern, which is where the snake gets its name from.
Like with green anacondas, females are the larger sex in this species. This species also prefers living in the water. However, unlike green anacondas, yellow anacondas come out onto land regularly to hunt terrestrial prey. Nonetheless, most of their prey consists of aquatic or semi-aquatic animals, such as fish, amphibians, birds, and small mammals and reptiles.
When a female yellow anaconda reaches sexual maturity, she releases a pheromone that attracts nearby males. As expected, several males will show up, ending up in a sight that is nothing short of a nightmare; several snakes bundled up into a breeding ball, twisting, and curling. What’s more, that courtship typically occurs in water. After around six months, the female gives birth to up to 82 young ones, which start fending for themselves immediately.
Despite their large size, yellow anacondas are quite timid, preferring to escape rather than fight. While they are a prime target for poachers, their numbers remain stable.
Snakes are some of the most intriguing creatures on the planet. And our fascination with the titans of the snake world is almost bizarre. Speaking of titans, the largest snake to have ever lived was known as the Titanoboa. Measuring up to 42 feet long and weighing in at well over 2,500 pounds, the Titanoboa was a true goliath.
To put that into perspective, the Titanoboa was almost twice as long and nearly five times as heavy as the largest green anaconda we know of. Make no mistake about it, if the Titanoboa hadn’t gone extinct 56 million years ago, we would be just another item on its menu.
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay