The World’s Biggest Snakes.

What’s the biggest snake in the world? People have argued about this for years. Part of the problem is the definition of the word “large.” Do you mean the longest or the heaviest? Are we talking about the largest single specimen ever found or an average for the species? Do you consider unconfirmed reports, or only rely on double-checked evidence?

A petroleum geologist in eastern Columbia in the 1944 found an anaconda he measured at 37 1/2 feet in length. Most people do not accept this report because after shooting the snake and measuring it, the expedition went off and ate lunch before attempting to photograph and skin it. While they were gone, the snake, (apparently still alive) crawled or swam away. Vincent Roth, a scientist working in British Guiana claims to have shot a 34 foot specimen, but his story also lacked corroboration.

The Giant Anaconda.

The anaconda, or Eunectes murinus, lives in central and tropical South America. This monstrous snake can live in fresh water and could be a candidate for some smaller sea serpent or lake monster reports. Like all snakes, the anaconda is carnivorous. While some snakes use venom (poison) to kill or paralyze their victims, the anaconda, like its Eastern Hemisphere cousins, the pythons, kill by constriction. A constricting snake, loops its body around an animal and uses its powerful muscles to squeeze its victim until the animal can no longer inflate its lungs to breathe, causing suffocation.

The Giant Python.

While some consider the anaconda the largest snake, problems with the above claims cause many people to argue that a reticulated python (Python reticulated) killed in Celebes, Indonesia in 1912 deserved the prize as the longest single snake specimen. It was 32 feet, 10 inches long.

People as Snake Prey

Do large modern snakes like the python and the anaconda eat people? Occasionally such attacks are recorded. In 1972 a python in Burma ate an eight-year-old boy. In 1927 there was a story about a jeweler named Maung Chit Chine. He hid under a tree during a rain storm and afterward his friends could only find his hat and shoes. When they killed a nearby gouged python, they found the rest of Chines’ body, swallowed feet first (though this seems opposite to normal snake behavior) and whole, inside the snake.

Strangely enough, many big snakes attack humans not in the jungle, but in suburbia. Pythons are often kept as pets, but can turn deadly without warning. In 1993 in Colorado, a 15-year-old boy weighing 95 pounds was attacked by the family’s python. The snake was only of medium size being 11 feet long and weighing 53 pounds, yet was able to kill the boy, though it made no attempt to eat him.

The beautiful skin patterns of pythons. Left is normal, while the right is an albino from the National Zoo who would not have survived in the wild as its coloration would have given it no protection when it was young. (Copyright Lee Krystek, 1998)

Big snakes, though beautiful and interesting, can be dangerous. And they don’t have to be record holders or live in the jungle to kill.

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