The 14-footer club
At about 14 feet long, Shedd’s green anaconda is among the longest animals at the aquarium, along with two beluga whales and the sawfish. Though it’s rare in the wild today, green anacondas can grow to almost 30 feet long and weigh more than 400 pounds, making them South America’s largest snake and world’s heaviest. While lumbering on land, they are fast swimmers. And buoyed in their watery lair, they can strike and grab prey in a flash.
The big squeeze
Anacondas are constrictors, not venomous snakes. When prey, from a fish or frog to a caiman or capybara, comes within striking distance, an anaconda lunges, bites and holds it while throwing several coils of its body around the animal. Then it tightens the coils when the prey inhales, quickly suffocating it. Through its sensitive belly scales, the snake can tell when the animal has stopped breathing and it can swallow its meal whole without risk of being bitten or kicked. After a large meal, an anaconda may not have to eat again for weeks or months.