The Real Reason Female Anacondas Strangle And Eat Their Male Partners

Creatures of this earth often exhibit some strange behaviors that human beings have a hard time absorbing mentally. For instance, did you know that 60% of mating encounters between springbok mantises end with the female decapitating the male and devouring his severed head? True story. Apparently, there are evolutionary benefits to the phenomenon that ensure the longevity of the offspring's life, providing the mother with nutrients and sufficient food stores to produce a healthy brood. Black widow spiders, scorpions, grasshoppers, and beetles also engage in this practice that scientists refer to as sexual cannibalism, as Smithsonian Magazine reports.  

There's another animal within the family of creepy crawlies that's been known to consume the body of its sexual partner as well, and this one is much larger than your average insect. According to All That's Interesting, female green anacondas have been observed eating their male counterparts on numerous occasions following sexual intercourse. 

Female anacondas sometimes eat the male

"I couldn't actually understand what was going on at first," said wildlife photographer Luciano Candisani after watching one such situation uncoil before his eyes in 2012. He told National Geographic, "But then she dragged the male's body with her when she went into the grass." Apparently, the intimate exchange between two green anacondas took place over the course of a few hours, and as it came to its conclusion, the female opted to eat the male whole. Gross, huh? As Candisani puts it, the female was close to 23 feet in length.

While it's not unheard of for a female green anaconda to devour her male mate, it's also not quite as widespread as it is amongst mantises. According to All That's Interesting, Luciano Candisani's photograph is the only known visual documentation of the phenomenon, and when he contacted snake expert Jesús Rivas about it shortly afterward, it was only the fourth reported occurrence of it happening. All the same, there are evolutionary practicalities to the act of sexual cannibalism amongst anacondas that mirror those of other species like beetles, mantises, and black widows. 

Who do female anacondas eat the male after sex?

"A full 30% of her body weight goes into making babies." Jesús Rivas told National Geographic. "Getting an extra seven or eight kilos of meat before you go into that stage isn't such a bad idea." According to All That's Interesting, a female green anaconda will forgo eating anything throughout the entirety of her pregnancy (around seven months), so bulking up on some quick and effective protein is her own form of prenatal meal prepping. As it turns out, a male anaconda of a slightly smaller size than her own just so happens to be the perfect dish. 

While this may seem like something of a gratuitous gesture or an over preparation, bear in mind that humans have it a lot easier than most of Mother Nature's other children. Anacondas can't go to the store and pick up all the fixings for a regal protein shake, so they have to act fast and pragmatically. In the animal kingdom, that sometimes involves eating your significant other.