New giant snake species discovered during filming of Nat Geo series in the Amazon

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Tuesday, February 20, 2024
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It turns out the world's heaviest snake isn't quite what it seems. During the filming of an upcoming National Geographic series, it was discovered that the green anaconda is actually two genetically distinct species, despite each species looking so similar that even experts can't tell them apart.

National Geographic Explorer and Professor Bryan Fry from the University of Queensland says he and a team of scientists received a rare invitation from the Waorani people to explore the region and collect samples from a population of anacondas. Indigenous hunters took them into the jungle on a 10-day expedition to search for the snakes, which they consider sacred.

"We paddled canoes down the river system and were lucky enough to find several anacondas lurking in the shallows, lying in wait for prey," Fry said. "The size of these magnificent creatures was incredible - one female anaconda we encountered measured an astounding 6.3 metres (20.7 feet) long. There are anecdotal reports from the Waorani people of other anacondas in the area measuring more than 7.5 metres (25 feet) long and weighing around 500 kilograms (1102 pounds)."

Fry says they collected blood and tissue samples from green anacondas in Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil, a process documented exclusively by National Geographic for their upcoming Disney+ series, "Pole to Pole With Will Smith."

Botflies perch on the head of a northern green Anaconda in Yasuni National Park in Ecuador. A new study recently revealed that the green anaconda is two distinct species.
Botflies perch on the head of a northern green Anaconda in Yasuni National Park in Ecuador. A new study recently revealed that the green anaconda is two distinct species.
Photograph By Karine Aigner/Naturepl.com

After running the genetic data, they found a clear divide between those sampled in the northern part of the range as opposed to those in the south. Based on these findings, they proposed renaming the former the northern green anaconda (Eunectes akayima), while E. murinus will continue to refer to southern green anacondas.

Fry called the discovery "the highlight of my career."

"Genetically, the differences are massive," he said. "They're five-and-a-half percent different, genetically. Now, to put that into context, we're about two percent different from chimps."

Read all about this new discovery at natgeo.com.

Read the study published in the open-access journal MDPI Diversity here.

Disney is the parent company of National Geographic and this station.