Anaconda Gets a New Skin

As animals grow, different processes happen. Hermit crabs find a new shell to call home. Lobsters shed their shells and grow new ones. Flounders have one eye migrate to the other side of their body. For our three green anacondas on exhibit, it means it’s time to molt, or shed, their skin!

All stretched out
To start the process, the snake first “loosens up” the skin along their body by secreting fluid in between the old and new skin over the course of a week or two. Once ready to go, the snake rubs their head against an object, snagging their skin on a rock, tree root or some other obstacle, causing the stretched skin to split and start peeling off.

The perfect spot to take off that skin
The skin comes off in the same way you might peel off a long sock-if you pull at the top, the inside becomes the outside! The molted skin will sometimes come off as one piece, including the scale that covers each eye!

The white part is the skin being shed
The New England Aquarium’s anacondas molt fairly often, depending on how fast they have been growing. And with over 30 feet of snake on exhibit, there’s usually some molted skin to be seen.

Newly molted skin
When a particularly nice molt happens and the skin stays in one piece, the aquarists will often lay it out on the tops of tanks to dry it out. After some additional preparation and cleaning, educators can then show it off to visitors and behind the scene tours. And though the skins get stretched a bit, it still gives us an idea of how big the snakes are!

A recent molt left to dry

Close-up of the scale
The aquarists will remove any pieces of skin that are left over, but not before many fish in the exhibit have a snack. And while the fish make for a colorful exhibit, as well as tiny snake skin vacuums, these fish are part of an important conservation initiative.

Small fish, big project
Project Piaba works to foster sustainable trade at a commercial level for wild-caught aquarium fish in the Rio Negro basin of Brazil. By working with fishers in the area to create a sustainable fishery for these common hobbyist species, this in turn provides protection to this vital rainforest ecosystem from harmful practices and habitat destruction. It ensures these fish, and the anacondas, have a healthy home for future generations and supports local communities along the Rio Negro.

In the trees
With fewer visitors in the building, now's a great time to visit and "hang" out with the anacondas. You may see them with a new, brightly-colored skin and some fish with a tasty snack!

Love 'em or hate 'em, snakes are fascinating and important parts of our blue planet. Keep reading about these slinkly reptiles with a blog about anaconda check-ups with our vets.

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