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Reptiles Guide


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Ball python, Python regius
Ball python, Python regius
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Subclass: Lepidosauria
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Superfamily: Henophidia
Family: Pythonidae

Python is the common name for a group of non-venomous constricting snakes, specifically the family Pythonidae. Other sources consider this group a subfamily of the Boas (Pythoninae). Pythons are more related to boas than to any other snake-family. There is also a genus within Pythonidae which carries the name Python (Daudin, 1803). Pythons are distinguishable from boas in that they have teeth on the premaxilla, a small bone at the very front and center of the upper jaw. Most boas produce live young, while pythons produce eggs. Some species of sandboas (Ericinae) are also called python.


Geographic Range and Habitat

Pythons are found in Australia, Southeast Asia, Africa and South America

Most pythons live in the dense underbrush of rugged tropical rainforest regions. They are excellent climbers; some species, like the Green Tree Python, are arboreal. Like all snakes, they are also capable swimmers.


Pythons range in size from 1 to 6 metres (3 to 20 feet) in length. Some pythons are among the longest species of snakes in the world; according to the Guinness Book of World Records the Reticulated Python holds the record for longest snake, at 10m (32ft 9.5in).[1]

Some species exhibit vestigial bones of the pelvis and rear legs, which are externally apparent in the form of a pair of anal spurs on each side of the cloaca. These spurs are larger in males than females, and are used by the male to stimulate the female during copulation.

Some pythons display vivid patterns on their scales while others are a nondescript brown. They usually reflect appropriate camouflage for their native habitat.

There has been a report[2] [3] of a python 49 feet = 14.85 meters long found on Java in Indonesia, but there has been doubt about that claim.


Pythons are constrictors, and feed on birds and mammals, killing them by squeezing them to death. They coil themselves up around their prey, tighten, but merely squeeze hard enough to stop the prey's breathing and/or blood circulation. Large pythons will usually eat something about the size of a house cat, but larger food items are not unknown (some large Asian species have been known to take down adult Deer, and the African Rock Python has been documented preying upon Gazelle). They swallow their prey whole, and take several days or even weeks to fully digest it. Despite their intimidating size and muscular power, they are generally not dangerous to humans. While a large adult python could kill a human being (most likely by strangling rather than actual crushing), humans are outside the normal size range for prey. Reports of python attacks on humans are extremely rare. Despite this, pythons have been aggressively hunted, driving some species (like the Indian Python) to the brink of extinction.

White-lipped Python Leiopython albertisii
White-lipped Python Leiopython albertisii

Most pythons have heat-sensing organs in their lips. These enable them to detect objects that are hotter than the surrounding environment. Pythons that do not have heat-sensing organs identify their prey by smell. Pythons are ambush predators: they typically stay in a camouflaged position and then suddenly strike at passing prey. They then grasp the prey in their teeth, and kill by constriction. Death is usually a result of suffocation or heart failure rather than crushing. Pythons will not usually attack humans unless startled or provoked, although females protecting their eggs can be aggressive.


Pythons lay eggs which they arrange in a pile. They coil around the pile until all eggs have hatched. Since pythons cannot regulate their internal body temperature, they cannot incubate their eggs per se; instead, they raise the temperature of their eggs by small movements of their body—essentially, they "shiver". This is one of only a few documented cases of parental behaviour in snakes.

In Captivity

Most species of python are available in the exotic pet trade.

The larger species such as the Burmese python and Reticulated Python should only be owned by those with experience of snakes. Cases of large pet pythons killing their owners have been documented.

The Everglades National Park has had an invasive population of Burmese Pythons that have caused harm to the natural environment of the Everglades; more than 200 have been removed.


Genus Aspidites

  • Black-headed Python, Aspidites melanocephalus (Krefft, 1864)
  • Woma Python, Aspidites ramsayi (Macleay, 1882)
    • Western Woma Python, Aspidites ramsayi panoptes (Hoser, 2000)
      Desert Woma Python, Aspidites ramsayi richardjonseii (Hoser, 2000)

Genus Antaresia

  • Children's Python, Antaresia childreni (Gray, 1842)
    Spotted Python, Antaresia maculosa (Peters, 1873)
    Pygmy Python, Antaresia perthensis (Stull, 1932)
    Stimson's Python, Antaresia stimsoni (Smith, 1985)

Genus Apodora

  • Papuan Python, Apodora papuana (Peters & Doria, 1878)

Genus Bothrochilus

  • Bismark Ringed Python, Bothrochilus boa (Schlegel, 1837)

Genus Leiopython

  • Northern (D'Albertis') White-lipped Python, Leiopython albertisii (Peters & Doria, 1878)
    • Leiopython albertisii barkeri (Hoser, 2000)
      Brown White-lipped Python, Leiopython albertisii bennetti (Hoser, 2000)
  • Southern (Black) White-lipped Python, Leiopython hoserae (Hoser, 2000)

Genus Liasis

  • Brown Water Python, Liasis fuscus
    • Dauan Island Water Python, Liasis fuscus cornwallisius (Gunther, 1879)
      Liasis fuscus fuscus (Peters, 1873)
      Liasis fuscus jackyae (Hoser, 2003)
  • Indonesian Water Python, Liasis mackloti
    • Wetar Island Python, Liasis mackloti dunni (Stull, 1932)
      Macklot's Python, Liasis mackloti mackloti (Duméril & Bibron, 1844)
      Savu Python, Liasis mackloti savuensis (Brongersma, 1956)
  • Olive Python, Liasis olivaceus
    • Liasis olivaceus olivaceus (Gray, 1842)
      Liasis olivaceus barroni (Smith, 1981)
Carpet Python, Morelia spilota
Carpet Python, Morelia spilota

Genus Morelia

  • Amethistine Python, Morelia amethistina (Schneider, 1801)
    Boelen's Python, Morelia boeleni (Brongersma, 1953)
    Centralian Carpet Python or Bredl's Python, Morelia bredli (Gow, 1981)
    Rough-scaled Python, Morelia carinata (Smith, 1981)
    Mollucan Python, Morelia clastolepis (Harvey, Barker, Ammerman & Chippindale)
    Australian Scrub Python, Morelia kinghorni (Stull, 1933)
    Morelia macburniei (Hoser, 2003)
    Flinders Python, Morelia mippughae (Hoser, 2003)
    Tanimbar Python, Morelia nauta (Harvey, Barker, Ammerman & Chippindale)
    Oenpelli Python, Morelia oenpelliensis (Gow, 1977)
  • Carpet Python, Morelia spilota
    • New Guinea Carpet Python, Morelia spilota harrisoni (Hoser, 2000)
      Southwestern Carpet Python, Morelia spilota imbricata (Smith, 1981)
      Jungle Carpet Python, Morelia spilota cheynei (Wells & Wellington, 1985)
      Morelia spilota macrospila (Werner, 1910)
      Coastal Carpet Python, Morelia spilota mcdowelli (Wells & Wellington, 1985)
      Diamond Python, Morelia spilota spilota (La Cépède, 1804)
      Northwestern Carpet Python, Morelia spilota variegata (Gray, 1842)
      Inland Carpet Python, Morelia spilotes metcalfei (Wells & Wellington, 1985)
Green Tree Python, Morelia viridis
Green Tree Python, Morelia viridis
  • Halmahera Python, Morelia tracyae (Harvey, Barker, Ammerman & Chippindale)
  • Green Tree Python, Morelia viridis
    • Morelia viridis viridis (Schlegel, 1872)
      Morelia viridis shireenae (Hoser, 2003)

Genus Python

Borneo Short-tailed Python, Python breitensteini
Borneo Short-tailed Python, Python breitensteini
  • Angolan Python, Python anchietae (Bocage, 1887)
    Borneo Short-tailed Python, Python breitensteini (Steindachner, 1881)
    Red Blood Python, Python brongersmai (Stull, 1938)
    Sumatran Short-tailed Python, Python curtus (Schlegel, 1872)
  • Indian Python, Python molurus
    • Python molurus molurus (Linnaeus, 1758)
      Burmese Python, Python molurus bivittatus (Kuhl, 1820)
  • South African Python, Python natalensis (Smith, 1833)
    Ball Python or Royal Python, Python regius (Shaw, 1802)
  • Reticulated Python, Python reticulatus
    • Python reticulatus reticulatus (Schneider, 1801)
      Selayer Reticulated Python, Python reticulatus saputrai (Auliya, 2002)
      Kayaudi Dwarf Reticulated Python, Python reticulatus jampeanus (Auliya, 2002)
  • African Rock Python, Python sebae (Gmelin, 1789)
    Timor Python, Python timoriensis (Peters, 1876)


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