## That was not a 15-meter anaconda!

by Greg Mayer

So here’s the wrap-up on anacondas. First, as I mentioned in the previous anaconda post, alert readers went digging and found out the true story. Reader Roger first suggested it was stretched, and, following a suggestion by infiniteimprobablit, determined it was changed from an aspect ratio of .550 (typical, I think of cellphones) to 16:9; Michael Fisher located the original video. Here’s the original video:

There was also a discussion of the stretched video on reddit. The snake now looks like a typical anaconda: the stretched one made its color pattern look a bit odd, and appear to be very wide (which added to the impression of great size). After watching the original video, I sent the following message to Jerry:

It’s not fake, but it’s been stretched from a vertical cell phone video to fit a 16:9 format. I’ve now seen the original video. It’s crossing a road (not a stream), it’s not swimming, the guy filming is walking (not in a boat). It’s a big snake, but on the order of 5-7 m, not 15. Readers found this, and I’ll put it together into a post for tomorrow afternoon.

My guess on the conversion ratio was right, or close to it (see the detailed discussion by Michael Fisher and Roger on figuring out the exact method of aspect ratio conversion/stretching). The video was posted by the Youtube account of Dumato, a Swiss company with Brazilian roots. They said this about it in the video description:

Many thanks to Dinda from Manaus who took this video and sent to DUMATO, showing how Amazonia is alive and free

davelenny, judging by the ruts in the road, figured the snake to be less than 3 car widths long (which would be less than 18 ft. for a 6 ft. wide vehicle such as a Jeep or Land Rover. Michael Fisher, noting that the ruts are likely to be 60 inches apart, so that the road would have a width of 10 ft., suggests a total length of 12-15 ft. (ca. 4-5 m) for the snake. Jeeps/trucks have wider axles (65″ for a Toyota Land Cruiser), and the flooded section of the road where the snake is is a bit wider than the rest of the road, so I’d go a bit larger than Michael. My initial guess of 5-7 m is probably not way off, but I would lean more toward the lower end of that range.

Next, there’s the size of the anaconda on display at the San Diego Natural History Museum. It is about 22 feet, which I figured out by measuring the floor tile length using my feet (my feet, shod, are one foot long, as I’ve verified on many floor tiles and soccer fields), and then counting the number of floor tiles from one end of the snake to the other.

Anaconda on display at the San Diego Natural History Museum.

My hat, which placed in the picture for scale, is 7-8 inches across. Michael Fisher, using the hat, came up with 20 feet, which was the closest of any reader, and given the angle, a pretty good estimate. So, with a 20% stretch, the live length would be 18.3 feet, which is spuriously precise, so let’s say 18 feet.

And finally, as an extra added bonus, I need to point out that that’s not a shed skin; this is a shed skin:

Shed skin of ball python (Python regius), ca. 1.2 m total length.

Note that the shed skin is translucent and nearly patternless; it is also much lighter (in weight) than an actual skin, which is what is on display in San Diego. Shed skins are only rarely taken as specimens for museums, usually only to document very uncommon species or occurrences. The above is a shed from my ball python, Vyvyan. Below, you can see the skin between the scales. The scales are nearly transparent, but the skin between is more opaque; it is this opaque skin that gives a skin its “stretch”.

Shed skin of ball python (Python regius), ca. 1.2 m total length.

1. ThyroidPlanet
Posted March 15, 2019 at 11:24 am | Permalink

Sub

2. Dominic
Posted March 15, 2019 at 11:38 am | Permalink

Good bit of research! Well done all 🙂

3. Nicolaas Stempels
Posted March 15, 2019 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

Not a 15m anaconda, but the question remains, can they actually reach 15m, or even more?
I like to think so, but that is never a good guide (probably the child in me). However, the fact they are predominantly aquatic means there are basically no physical barriers to these humongous sizes. I think that at present a max size of 11-12m has been established.
I see with satisfaction that a clear distinction is made between a shed mould and an actual skin now, something (as I pointed out) that appeared a bit unclear in earlier posts.

4. Roger
Posted March 15, 2019 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

It’s sad that the video that Michael Fisher tracked down which looks to be the original video has not yet reached 100 views but everyone who has uploaded copies of it are getting thousands and millions of views!

• Roger
Posted March 15, 2019 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

P.S Michael this is what I get when I upload a 1280 x 80. watch?v=MZDlqnbPx_c

• Posted March 15, 2019 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

It’s up to 177 now. Must be mostly WEIT readers!

GCM

5. Nicolaas Stempels
Posted March 15, 2019 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

Greg, I think it is great that your foot is exactly one foot. That is how a foot was determined, I guess.
A thumb, a hand, a span, a cubit, an ell, a fathom, great these measures based on human proportions.
I wonder where the metric system comes from,
it is said to be four times the length of a pendulum swinging once a second (25cm) or one ten millionth of the distance from the North pole to the equator.

• gravelinspector-Aidan
Posted March 16, 2019 at 6:32 am | Permalink

The original proposition for the metre was indeed one ten-millionth of the length of a quadrant of a great circle passing through the North Pole and (some location in Paris), late in the 17th century. Louis the Somethingth promptly complained that he’d lost more territory to his surveyors than he’d won by the sword (and musket). Then things started getting complicated with trying to work out how non-spherical the Earth is (prolate or oblate) because France was too small to properly determine the “figure of the Earth”, so surveying expeditions were dispatched to the Baltic and Bolivia. Which is literally several books worth of unbounded joy, bliss and happiness. And malaria, death and misery (though I think the news about the efficacy of quinine did come back as a side-effect). Also at least one very dubious marriage. It all sort-of stalled as France decided to avoid the problem and have a Revolution instead.
The project was picked up again in the Napoleonic era, but with the definition shifted to using a physical artefact instead of a measurement of the Earth.
The pendulum thing I’ve heard previously, but I’m not sure it would have been workable in the 18th century. For starters, you’d need to control temperature (or use Harrison’s clock tricks of about 1745, if the British Navy would allow such sensitive technology to go abroad), air pressure (Toricelli and Pascal had a handle on that) and humidity (understood, but not well measured) in your pendulum chamber, then have a really good clock to ensure that your second was the same as someone else’s second. There is a problematic element of circularity there, so you’d probably need a good astronomical observatory with a good transit telescope there.
Then there was one of the annoying surveying problems from the mid-18th century oblate/ prolate/ how-long-is-a-metre surveys – that mountains have enough mass to shift a plumb-bob from the vertical. Which distorts your measurement of star positions. Which distorts your survey of the Earth’s shape. And it also shows that the precision required is enough to be affected by local gravitational field strength variations (so geological gravitational surveys correct for some of this, producing a corrected gravity anomaly named the Bouger anomaly for one of the Andean surveyors mentioned above). And we’re back to square one, because the local gravitational field strength will affect the period of a pendulum.
Complicated thing, the metre. Which is why they went for the “artefact in a safe” standard. For a century and a bit. Now it’s defined by a clock, to 1 part in 10¹⁵ or so.

• infiniteimprobabilit
Posted March 16, 2019 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

If mountains can shift your plumb-bob, then, even in flattish country, so can variations in the density of nearby rock masses (e.g. a buried granite dome).

I think you alluded to that with your ‘local gravitational field strength variations’.

cr

• gravelinspector-Aidan
Posted March 20, 2019 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

Yes, you make adjustments for altitude (well, distance from the barycentre of the Earth) and local topography when mapping gravity, so that the normally plotted value on gravity maps is the “Bouguer” anomaly, M.Bouguer having been one of the people having “interesting times” in South America, determining the shape of the Earth.

6. Nicolaas Stempels
Posted March 15, 2019 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

At the risk if breaking tha Roolz, one more comment.
I use the shed moulds to scare off burglars. Some shed skin will convince them you do have snakes. Maybe try their luck next door (they have some Fila Brasileiro though.)

7. merilee
Posted March 15, 2019 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

I’d take the dogs over the snakes any day.

8. gravelinspector-Aidan
Posted March 16, 2019 at 6:36 am | Permalink

davelenny, judging by the ruts in the road, figured the snake to be less than 3 car widths long

There is a line of logic that runs from the width of a horse’s arse to the lifting capacity of the Space Shuttle. But this margin is too small to contain it.

9. antonio amazonio
Posted March 17, 2019 at 11:15 am | Permalink

that is not the original video.

• antonio amazonio
Posted March 17, 2019 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

the video you show above it is probably the first version posted online. But it is not original source, nor (even forgetting about the audio) the original video.
you should check better your info before posting it online.

• Posted March 17, 2019 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

What makes you think it is not the original video? And what about the audio is even more dubious? Do you have some information about Dinda or Dumato? If so, please share. Thanks!

GCM