The reticulated python is one of the largest snakes in the world. It is also one of the few snake species which can be domesticated as a pet. Let us take a look at some interesting facts about it.
Pythons derive their name from the Greek mythology. They were regarded to be the dragons executed by the god Apollo. Known to be some of the world's largest snakes, these are non-venomous and aren't usually dangerous to humans.
The reticulated python is abundantly found in Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Eastern reaches of India.
Some Slithery Facts
Ϩ It gets its name, 'reticulated', from the intricate pattern of its coloration.
Ϩ It is considered the longest snake in the world, a title it dubiously shares with the green anaconda, Eunectes murinus. Reticulated pythons range 10-20 feet in average; the largest one was recorded at about 23 ft and weighed in well over 300 lbs (136 kg).
Ϩ Reticulated pythons are oviparous, i.e., they hatch from eggs. This differentiates them from the boas, the second major family of nonvenomous snakes. A female may lay over 100 eggs at a time. The eggs are white in color and have a soft, leathery shell. The female pythons wrap their bodies around their eggs until they are ready to hatch.
This particular behavior is known as brooding (functionally analogous to a female bird incubating her eggs by sitting on them) and it prevents the eggs from getting too warm or too cool. The eggs need to remain close to 89° F (31.6° C) during the incubation period, which lasts around eighty-five days.
Ϩ The young pythons do not take long to become independent, and can begin searching for their food themselves in no time at all. It must use its coloration and reticulated pattern to hide from predators and to hunt for food. Many of the hatchlings are eaten by other animals such as hawks, cobras, and monitor lizards.
The hatchlings are 26 to 35 inches in length and weigh around 4 to 5 ounces. Despite their small size, python hatchlings (and, incidentally, all snake hatchlings) possess all the necessary predatory skills, and can kill and eat small mice, rats, lizards, and frogs.
Ϩ Reticulated pythons are at home on the ground, in caves or in trees and they have adapted to live near human habitation where they hunt rats, chickens, ducks, domestic dogs, cats and pigs. They are also excellent swimmers, a characteristic that could have proved vital to their distribution in the islands of Southeast Asia.
Ϩ It has a color pattern which is a very complex geometric pattern that incorporates numerous different colors. Its back has a series of diamond shapes, which are laid between some smaller markings with light centers. In this python species, there can be several diverse colors, sizes and markings.
The markings help the python blend into its natural jungle habitat, protecting it from possible prey and also keeping it incognito when hunting.
Ϩ It feeds on a variety of small-to-medium-sized mammals, such as deer, pigs, civets, rats, as well as birds. Among some of the largest items documented to be eaten is a starved female sun bear of 23 kilograms that was eaten by a 21-feet specimen. It took the snake over 10 weeks to digest the meal.
Ϩ Like all snakes, it is a highly specialized ambush predator. It will typically wait in hiding for the prey to move close by before striking. It catches its prey with its backward-curving teeth, which act like hooks preventing the prey's escape, and coils its powerful body around it, squeezing until the victim dies.
The python aims its coils around the chest of the victim and does not relax its grip until the victim's heart stops beating, which it can sense. Then it swallows its food whole and headfirst.
Ϩ Although a reticulated python can easily kill a human, it is not a significant threat, as it will prefer to flee from an adult human than to attack. However, it has, on rare occasions, killed and consumed humans, especially children. The broad shoulders in the human skeleton could prove to be problematic for the python while swallowing.
Ϩ In spite of being dangerous, these pythons make good captives. But the keeper should be trained well enough in handling such large species, so as to ensure safety of himself and as well as that of the snake. They are non-venomous and have an attractive appearance that make them quite popular among snake lovers.
Ϩ Small pythons can easily be captured and tamed (although they should not be handled flippantly), but adults are dangerous as they can deliver vicious bites, and their powerful coils are too much for a human being to handle.
Ϩ Its lifespan in the wild is up to 20 years, which can be markedly prolonged in captivity.
Pythons are terrifying but captivating animals. These snakes are undoubtedly one of nature's - quite literally - biggest marvels.