Aquarium’s Anaconda Gives Birth to 14 Baby Anaconda Just After Midnight

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Close up of an anaconda at the New England Aquarium

Pile of snakes at the New England Aquarium

Exhibit caretaker Scott Dodd holds a new baby anaconda at the New England Aquarium

Scott Dowd

BOSTON, MA - January 2, 2008
As the New Year struck, an overnight Aquarium staff person checked on the Aquarium’s pregnant 16-foot anaconda. She was resting comfortably in a behind-the-scenes tank. Four hours later, he found Ashley in labor in the midst of a major multiple birth. When finished by about 5 a.m., there were fourteen new baby anaconda, each about two feet long.

Scott Dowd, the Aquarium’s Amazon biologist and researcher, received the 4 a.m. call, but he was already up caring for a five day old baby boy, his first child. Scott’s wife, a former Aquarium employee herself, picked up the human parental duties as Scott drove to Boston to assume his surrogate snake caretaking duties.

He found the green anaconda in good shape with more than a dozen perfectly formed and very active two foot snakes sharing her private tank. Versus most snakes which lay external eggs, anaconda employ an unusual reproductive strategy called ovoviviparity, where eggs remain in the mother’s body until they are about to hatch and then the young are born live. Unlike mammals, ovoviviparous young gain their nourishment from the egg yolk instead of from the mother directly via an umbilical cord.

In addition to the live young, Dowd found a still born snake and some unfertilized eggs that had been expelled in the birth process. The litter size at fourteen was modest for an anaconda which can sometimes have several dozen young in a single pregnancy. Young anaconda once born are completely independent of the mother.

These young anaconda will be cared for at the Aquarium for at least a month and will then be eligible for distribution to other accredited aquariums and zoos.

The anaconda birth was a first at the Boston based aquarium and is not a very common event among captive large constrictors. Dowd cares for three large (14 foot plus) adult anaconda in the Aquarium’s Amazon exhibit. Dowd also runs a long term collaborative research project in the Amazon.

Ashley, the new anaconda mother, was named for a long term and very dedicated volunteer that worked with Dowd in the Amazon exhibit.

Anaconda can grow to be the largest snakes in the world, even longer than a three story building is tall. Anaconda are constrictors and are found in rainforest habitats in tropical South America.