Life's Little Mysteries

What's the World's Largest Snake?

Burmese python in Everglades
Burmese pythons, such as this one, have been found to consume a wide variety of wildlife, including alligators, wood storks and Key Largo woodrats. (Image credit: National Parks Service)

Perhaps a better question would be where is the world’s largest snake? Scholars have argued about it, but the Guinness Book lists the world’s largest snake as Fluffy (not a very snuggly creature), a reticulated python that measured more than 24 feet and weighed more than 300 pounds. Sadly, Fluffy passed away suddenly in October of 2010 at a zoo in Powell, OH due to an apparent ovarian tumor. She was 18 years old and still 24 feet long (a fact worth noting as some snakes, like people, shrink with age).

Giant pythons have invaded Florida’s Everglades. A 17-footer was recently caught and then found to have a record 87 eggs inside.

In 2003, several media outlets reported that a giant snake had been captured in an Indonesian village that measured 49 feet and weighed 983 pounds. This was later found to be false – but measuring a snake turns out to be a tricky task.  Snakes are not constant in their size – their girth and length changes depending on the weather, how recently a snake has eaten and when the animal last shed its skin – making it difficult to get an accurate read. After eating, their bodies are softer, longer and bigger – it’s just a way for snakes to take in as much food as possible.

60 million years ago, a much biggest reptile slithered the Earth: at 48 feet long and weighing an estimated one-and-a-half tons, remains of an ancestor of the modern-day boa were discovered in Columbia.

The snake with the longest fangs, by the way, is the highly venomous gaboon viper of tropical Africa. In a 6-foot snake, the fangs are two inches long – and have enough venom to inject lethal doses into 30 individual men.

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