The beautiful scales of the reticulated python, the longest snake in the world.
Credit: fivespots | Shutterstock
Love them or hate them, there's no denying that snakes are an impressive bunch of reptiles. These critters have existed for millions of years, are able to survive in an array of climates and are found on every continent except Antarctica.
But which species of slithering reptile is the hardest to overlook? While there are several contenders for the title of world's largest snake, here are three of the biggest and longest snakes known to man:
Weighing in at 550 pounds, the aptly named giant anaconda (Eunectes murinus) is the largest snake in the world considering its length-to-weight ratio. This species, also known as the green anaconda, averages about 17 feet in length, though some individuals grow to as long as 30 feet.
And this aquatic monster has been known to measure as much as three feet around the middle. But don’t worry: Giant anacondas don't bite. Instead, they kill their prey by suffocating or drowning it.
Growing up to 30 feet long, the reticulated python (Python reticulatus) of southeastern Asia and the East Indies is the longest snake in the world. These giants have an average weight of 250 pounds, but the largest known specimen in existence weighs in at a whopping 350 pounds.
Unlike anacondas, these snakes bite their prey and swallow it whole, after squeezing it to death — slowly. Despite their unpredictability, pythons are popular pets for exotic snake owners. Medusa, a captive reticulated python in Kansas City, Mo., earns her keep as part of a haunted-house exhibit.
But neither the sprawling python nor the giant anaconda can hold a candle to their prehistoric predecessor, Titanoboa cerrejonensis. The fossilized remains of this 42-foot-long, 2,500 pound monster were unearthed in Colombia in 2009.
Scientists used the mathematical relationship between the size of vertebrae and the length of the body in living snakes to determine the ancient snake's mass. These reptiles are believed to have slithered around the Earth from 58 million to 60 million years ago.