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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.


 


A New World Record!: Pythons range in size from 4.5 to 6 meters (15 to 20 feet) in length. They are among the longest species of snake 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).

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. 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.

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


How about a hug?: 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. 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.

This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike License v. 2.5: Heat Seeking Missiles: 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.


A Dozen Eggs, Please: 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 behavior in snakes. Dr. Steve Gorzula has noted in his CITES Ball Python Survey report that Ball Pythons do not exhibit shivering behavior to increase the temperature of a clutch during incubation.

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Pythonidae

 Kingdom: Animalia

 Phylum: Chordata

 Class: Reptilia

 Subclass: Lepidosauria

 Order: Squamata

 Suborder: Serpentes

 Superfamily: Henophidia

 Family: Pythonidae