World’s largest snake discovered by Will Smith’s documentary crew

Close-up of a northern green anaconda head. Image: Bryan Fry, University of Queensland Australia

Close-up of a northern green anaconda head. Image: Bryan Fry, University of Queensland Australia

Published Feb 27, 2024


The iconic green anaconda of the Amazon rainforest in South America, has been found to consist of two distinct species, thanks to the collaborative efforts of researchers and an unlikely ally, Will Smith.

Fry was scientific team leader for the Amazonian part of the National Geographic documentary Pole to Pole with Will Smith.

According to IFLScience, Professor Bryan Fry from the University of Queensland, leading a study on the effects of oil drilling in the Amazon, stumbled upon the groundbreaking discovery during a documentary expedition with Will Smith.

“Our team received a rare invitation from the Waorani people to explore the region and collect samples from a population of anacondas, rumoured to be the largest in existence,” Professor Fry said in a statement.

Contrary to popular belief, the green anaconda's colossal size is not uniform across sexes.

While females can reach lengths exceeding 5 metres, their male counterparts are significantly smaller, indicating distinct biological differences between the two.

“When you look at the male and female anacondas you wouldn’t think they were the same animal, let alone the same species,” Fry told IFLScience.

Genetic analysis found a 5.5% difference in DNA between Ecuadorian anacondas and their Brazilian counterparts, leading to the classification of a new species, the northern green anaconda (Eunectes akayima).

“To put it in perspective, humans differ from chimpanzees by only about 2%,” Fry noted.

“As top predators, anacondas are especially vulnerable to habitat degradation,” Fry and colleagues write in a new research paper.

“Not only do they suffer from the damage to the habitat, they are also heavily impacted by the damage to their prey base.”

The significance of this discovery extends beyond taxonomy, offering insights into the ecological challenges facing these magnificent creatures. As top predators, anacondas are susceptible to habitat degradation, compounded by pollution from oil drilling activities.

The northern green anaconda, with its smaller range and vulnerability to habitat destruction, may face heightened conservation concerns compared to its southern counterpart.

The research team reasoned that by comparing concentrations of heavy metals between male and female snakes, they could detect the consequences of oil spills in the ecosystem.

The combination of the size of the find, celebrity link, and environmental significance makes it “the biggest achievement of my career,” Fry concluded.

IOL Environment