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New species of giant snake discovered in the Amazon

Scientists working in the Amazon Rainforest have discovered a new species of snake, considered the largest in the world.

A team from the University of Queensland traveled to the Ecuadorian Amazon in search of the previously undocumented northern green anaconda (Eunectes akayima), following an invitation from the Waorani people to observe anacondas “said to be the largest in existence”, according to the scientists.

The team joined the hunters on a 10-day expedition to the Bameno region in Baihuaeri Waorani territory, before paddling through the river system to “encounter several anacondas lurking in the shallow waters, on the lookout for prey,” as the Professor Bryan Fry, a biologist at the University of Queensland, in a statement.

Anacondas are giant, non-venomous constrictive snakes found in or near water in warm parts of South America.

“The size of these magnificent creatures was incredible. One female anaconda we found measured an impressive 21 feet long,” Fry said of the team’s discovery, which was made while filming the upcoming National Geographic series “Pole to Pole with Will Smith.”

The group also said it had heard anecdotal evidence that 7.5 meter, 500 kilogram snakes had been sighted in the area.

Green anacondas are the heaviest snakes in the world, according to the United Kingdom's Natural History Museum, which noted that the heaviest individual ever recorded weighed 227 kg and measured 8.43 meters long and 1.11 meters wide.

The reticulated python tends to be longer, often reaching more than 6.25 meters (20.5 feet) in length, but is lighter.

Experts studying the creatures have found that the newly identified species of northern green anaconda is different from the southern green anaconda nearly 10 million years ago and differs genetically by 5.5 percent.

“It’s quite significant. To put this into perspective, humans differ from chimpanzees by only about 2%,” Fry said. The findings are described in the journal MDPI Diversity.

The team then decided to compare the genetics of the green anaconda with other species elsewhere to evaluate them as indicators of ecosystem health, and warned that the Amazon faces numerous threats.

“Deforestation of the Amazon basin due to agricultural expansion has resulted in an estimated habitat loss of 20 to 31 percent, which could impact up to 40 percent of its forests by 2050,” Fry said.

Habitat degradation, wildfires, drought and climate change threaten rare species like anacondas, which exist in such rare ecosystems, he added.

See also: Amazon records biggest drop in deforestation of the year

Source: CNN Brasil

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