Temporal range: Miocene–recent
|Green anaconda, E. murinus|
|Range of Eunectes|
- Common names: anacondas.
Eunectes is a genus of boas found in tropical South America. They are an aquatic group of snakes and include one of the largest snakes in the world, E. murinus, the green anaconda. The name Eunectes is derived from the Greek word Eυνήκτης, which means "good swimmer". Four species are currently recognized.
Distribution and habitat
All four species are aquatic snakes that prey on other aquatic animals, including fish, river fowl, caiman, and capybaras. Some accounts exist of anacondas preying on domestic animals such as goats that venture too close to the water.
Relationship with humans
While encounters between people and anacondas may be dangerous, they do not regularly hunt humans. Nevertheless, threat from anacondas is a familiar trope in comics, movies and adventure stories set in the Amazon jungle. Anacondas have also figured prominently in South American folklore, where they are sometimes depicted as shapeshifting mythical creatures called encantados. Local communities and some European explorers have given accounts of giant anacondas, legendary snakes of much greater proportion than any confirmed specimen.
other than nominate
|Common name||Geographic range|
|E. beniensis||Dirksen, 2002||0||Bolivian anaconda||South America in the Departments of Beni and Pando in Bolivia.|
|E. deschauenseei||Dunn and Conant, 1936||0||Dark-spotted anaconda||South America in northeastern Brazil and coastal French Guiana.|
|E. murinus||(Linnaeus, 1758)||1||Green anaconda||South America in countries east of the Andes, including Colombia, Venezuela, the Guianas, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and on the island of Trinidad.|
|E. notaeus||Cope, 1862||0||Yellow anaconda||South America in eastern Bolivia, southern Brazil, Paraguay and northeastern Argentina.|
|E. stirtoni||Hoffstetter and Rage, 1977||0||This species is extinct; their fossils have been found in the La Venta fauna (Miocene) in Colombia.|
The mating seasons in Eunectes varies both between species and within species depending on locality, although the trend appears to be the dry season. The green anaconda (E. murinus) is the most well studied species of Eunectes in terms of their mating system, followed by the yellow anaconda (E. notaeus); unfortunately E. deschauenseei and E. beniensis are much less common, making the specific details of their mating systems much less well understood.
Sexual size dimorphism in Eunectes is the opposite of most other vertebrates. Females are larger than males in most snakes, and green anacondas (E. murinus) have one of the most extreme size differences, where females average roughly 32 kg and males average only around 7 kg. This size difference has several benefits for both sexes. Large size in females leads to higher fecundity and larger offspring; as a result male mate choice favours larger females. Large size is also favoured in males because larger males tend to be more successful at reproducing, both because of their size advantage in endurance rivalry and their advantage in sperm competition because larger males are able to produce more sperm. One reason that males are so much smaller in Eunectes is that large males can be confused for females, which interferes with their ability to mate when smaller males mistakenly coil them in breeding balls; as a result, there is an optimum size for males where they are large enough to successfully compete, but not large enough to risk other males trying to mate with them.
During the mating season female anacondas release pheromones to attract males for breeding, which can result in polyandrous breeding balls; these breeding balls have been observed in E. murinus, E. notaeus, and E. deschauenseei, and likely also occur in E. beniensis. In the green anaconda (E. murinus) up to 13 males have been observed in a breeding ball, which have been recorded to last two weeks on average. In anaconda breeding balls, several males coil around one female and attempt to position themselves as close to her cloaca as possible where they use their pelvic spurs to "tickle" and encourage her to allow penetration. Since there are often many males present and only one male can mate with the female at a time, the success of a male often depends on his persistence and endurance because physical combat is not a part of the Eunectes mating ritual, apart from firmly pushing against other males in an attempt to secure the best position on the female.
Cannibalism is quite easy in anacondas since females are so much larger than males, but sexual cannibalism has only been confirmed in E. murinus. Females gain the direct benefit of a post-copulatory high-protein meal when they consume their mates along with the indirect benefit of additional resources to use for the formation of offspring; cannibalism in general (outside of the breeding season) has been confirmed in all but E. deschauenseei, although it is likely that it occurs in all Eunectes species.
Although sexual reproduction is by far the most common in Eunectes, E. murinus has been observed to undergo facultative parthenogenesis. In both cases, the females had lived in isolation from other anacondas for over 8 years, and DNA analysis showed that the few fully formed offspring were genetically identical to the mothers; although this is not commonly observed, it is likely possible in all species of Eunectes and several other species of Boidae.
- Giant anaconda
- List of boine species and subspecies
- Boinae by common name
- Boinae by taxonomic synonyms
- Sexual selection
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