Can Anacondas Swim? (Or Climb Trees)

Humans were always fascinated by large predators and what a larger predator than anaconda. When we talk about anacondas what we have in mind is South America’s green anaconda but this large snake has 3 more cousins: green anaconda, yellow or Paraguayan anaconda, dark-spotted, and Bolivian anaconda. Have you ever wondered if these giant snakes can swim? 

Can anacondas swim? Yes, they can swim. Anacondas are members of a boa family called Eunectes. They are an aquatic group of snakes and the name Eunectes in Greek means “good swimmer”. When we talk about green anacondas, their size actually helps them swim in the water and it is easier for them to move in the water than to move on land.

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Most of their time anacondas spend hunting in the water. Their physical characteristics such as large head, eyes, and nostrils on top of their head allow them to see and breathe while most of their body is underwater.

South American Green Anaconda
South American Green Anaconda

But even if they are good swimmers they actually prefer to let the river’s current carry them downstream with only their nostrils above the surface. What a great strategy to preserve the energy and be ready for the prey.

This is especially important because of this snake’s habitat. Anacondas like to live in rainforests, tropical rivers, swamps, or grasslands. They like to live in hot and humid areas. These snakes spend most of the time swimming or lurking in slow moving rivers and streams. They enjoy hiding in murky waters. Since these animals are cold blooded, they will bask in the sun to warm themselves up, but they never want to be too far from the water, so they will sun themselves on tree branches above rivers or streams so that they can drop into the water at a seconds notice if they need to.  

One of the reasons that anacondas like to swim so much is because they are so large. These giant snakes can reach lengths of up to 20 feet long! Since they are so big, they are a bit slow when moving on land. But in the water, anacondas can swim swiftly and reach their prey quicker.  

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Can anacondas breathe underwater?

Green anaconda (Eunectes murinus)
Green anaconda (Eunectes murinus)

Anacondas can’t breathe underwater but they can stay submerged underwater for 10 minutes holding their breath. Long enough to lurk for their prey. Snakes can stay longer underwater if they are in a relaxed state and not exerting any energy. Seems like a win-win combo for this wild beauty which moving quite slow on land it has the potential to reach a high speed in the water.

Do anacondas eat fish? 

Since we now know that anacondas spend a lot of the time in the water, you may be wondering if they eat a diet of mainly fish. Anacondas will eat fish and other aquatic reptiles, such as snakes and turtles, but they will also eat land animals such as capybaras, deer, tapirs, peccaries, birds, and sheep.

When anacondas hunt on animals that live on land, they will snatch their prey and drag it underwater, drowning their victim. Anacondas have also been known to occasionally prey on jaguars.

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Can anacondas climb trees?

Green anaconda coming down from a tree
Green anaconda coming down from a tree

Anacondas spend most of their time under the water, or in caves at the river banks but they have been known for their ability to climb trees in their search for prey – bird nests.

Are anacondas poisonous? 

Anacondas are not poisonous snakes. Instead, they are part of a group of snakes that are known as constrictors. Anacondas, and other constrictors, can coil its body around their prey until the prey dies of either suffocation or crushing. Then the anaconda will eat the victim whole.

If the prey is too big to swallow whole easily, the green anaconda can actually unhinge its jaw in order to be able to stretch its mouth around its food. Once an anaconda has eaten a big meal, it can go for weeks and weeks without eating anything else. 

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Do anacondas have any predators? 

On top of using the water to stalk prey, anacondas also use it to make a quick escape from any predators. What could prey on snakes this large? Adult anacondas do not have many natural predators. Humans are the biggest predator of anacondas due to deforestation and also illegal hunting for its leather.

They also have to look out for jaguars. A jaguar will rarely prey on an anaconda because of its enormous size, but if an anaconda attacks a jaguar, the jaguar will try to fight back. Jaguars have the most powerful bite out of all of the cats in the world and a jaguar can kill an anaconda by biting the snake’s head, neck, or throat. 

Young anacondas have many more predators. When newborn anacondas are born (because like boa constrictors, anacondas give live birth), they are only about two to three feet long and they are left alone from birth. When they are this small, young anacondas have to look out for jaguars, caimans, foxes, and lizards.

One subspecies of the anaconda, the green anaconda, has been observed killing young anacondas. Female green anacondas (which are much bigger than male anacondas) will sometimes eat smaller male anacondas. Lastly, a large group of piranhas may attack a weak anaconda in the water.  

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How long do anacondas live? 

In the wild, anacondas typically live for about 10 years, but in captivity (such as in zoos), these snakes can live for up to 30 years. 

Conclusion

Anacondas are known as “semiaquatic snakes.” This means that they spend a part of their life in the water and part of their life on land. Some other animals that are semiaquatic are platypuses, penguins, beavers, otters, and ducks. Since anacondas are semiaquatic, that means that they spend part of the time in the water – which means they are good swimmers!