All pythons share some common characteristics. These snakes usually have large heads, thin necks, pelvic spurs, stout bodies and two lungs (most snakes only have one). Nearly all have head pits on their lower jaw that help them to detect warm-blooded prey at night. The females of all species lay eggs and incubate them by coiling around and "shivering" the eggs keeping them at a constant temperature. Pythons range in size from very big (the Burmese and reticulated pythons can grow to 20 feet and over 200 lbs), to small (the Children's python doesn't get much bigger than 24 inches in length). Pythons are restricted in their native range to Australia, Africa, Indonesia and Asia. At least one python, the Burmese python, has recently established in the United States Florida's Everglades. Snake hunters have been hired to locate and destroy these snakes.
Pythons are attracted to houses and rural properties because of shelter sites and easy-to-get pests and various species of domestic animals, such as chickens, dogs, and cats. All pythons are harmless, yet they have very sharp, recurved teeth that can cause some damage. All python bites will need medical assistance.
Carpet Python Morelia spilota
Photo by Larysa Johnston
Typically, carpet pythons are yellow with brown cross-barring, but there are at least 6 other subspecies that have different patterns. The northeastern Queensland form is black and yellow with large spots, while the form known as Diamond python from Sydney has a black edge around every yellow scale, producing a very bright pattern.
The Carpet python (Morelia spilota) is native to Australia. These snakes live on trees and have a diverse range of colorations and patterns. The species occupies many different habitats, from river floodplains to rocky cliffs to rainforst to open eucalypt woodland. Its diet is also broad, including many species of birds and mammals. Young carpet pythons favor lizards. These snakes use camouflage to ambush prey more frequently than the drop method. Prey is constricted before swallowing. Carpet pythons are active day and night.
The Ball python is a tropical West and Central African snake of relatively placid demeanor. If acquired when young, most ball pythons are easily kept. They are actively bred for the pet industry. Although many allow handling, most do not enjoy it, and excessive handling may result in a snake refusing to eat. Wild-collected adults are far more difficult captives. Acclamited specimens tolerate some handling and remain in great demand by both hobbyists and specialists. The ball python is a species of moderate length (4-6 ft). The very heavy girth of this snake makes it look considerably larger than it really is. These are long-lived snakes (15 to 25 years). Ball pythons are named for their habit of coiling into a tight ball, when startled, the head in a protected position in the center. Younger ball pythons can be more aggressive, but as adults these snakes prove to be docile and curious about their surroundings. These snakes have small clutches, usually 3 to 8 eggs. Incubation takes about 2 months. Color and pattern intensity of both juveniles and adults is almost identical.
Wild-caught ball pythons can be picky eaters. Mice are not a normal part of their diet, so these snakes will sometimes not eat for many months unless a preferred food is available. Captive-bred snakes are much better eaters, but even they will skip a meal from time to time. In general, young ball pythons will eat a mice every seven to ten days, and adults will eat a large rat every two weeks.
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