Part 2: Death by Sex

Fact: Anacondas spend months mating: it can go on so long that they die from it.

Green anacondas are the worlds largest snakes, but lasting up to a month in the sack they’re also the world finest endurance sex athletes.

Such a marathon requires organisation and planning. A keen female lays down a trail of pheromones (chemicals that signal to males that she is ready to mate) and lies in wait in the water. Of course, more than one male usually comes across this enticing scent, so often she gets approached by multiple male anacondas. Rather than simply choosing one or making them fight, the female picks the sensible option and has sex with them all. It’s a public affair: she forms a ‘breeding ball’ by wrapping herself up with up to 12 males – literally a writhing snake orgy.

Then the fighting begins. Within this ball the males fight each other for access to the female – a battle that can last days, weeks or even a month before the ball breaks apart. This fight is so vicious and lasts so long that males are often killed in the pursuit of getting their rocks off. During this time, the female might mate with more than one (or potentially all) of the snakes in the breeding ball before slithering away unharmed, because she’s a strong independent woman so why shouldn’t she?

Unusually for snakes, anacondas give birth to live young rather than eggs. These young grow quickly, reaching sexual maturity after only a couple of years. So 2-year old snakes were having 13-person orgies and I had to wait 18 years to lose it? I know what I’m choosing to be reincarnated as.

‘Another one of Mr Shaunak’s Little Bites of Science’
Image under Creative Common’s licensed

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