15 Fun Facts About the Reticulated Python
When you think of big snakes, chances are you're thinking about the reticulated python. It is one of the world's most iconic reptile species. It is known for its incredible length, colorful patterns and high intelligence, which is why it's such a popular snake to study.
While some people do own these massive reptiles, they are not recommended pets for inexperienced snake owners. Nevertheless, they are still quite fascinating.
Reticulated Python Identity and Origins
Reticulated pythons are native to Southeast Asia and can be found in countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia. They are also bred in captivity in the U.S. and have become more popular with reptile enthusiasts in the past 30 years.
They are members of the family Pythonidae, which also includes the Burmese python, ball python and green tree python.
Long and Tall
While they are not the heaviest snake breed (although they're in the top three), they're arguably the longest. They can measure nearly 33 feet in length — the same as the green anaconda.
The longest-ever reticulated python was found in 1912 and measured 32.8 feet. According to the "Guinness Book of World Records," the longest one kept in captivity was a Kansas City snake named Medusa. She was about 25 feet long and weighed 350 pounds.
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Masters at the Art of Ambush
In the wild, these nocturnal snakes hunt everything from other reptiles to to small mammals and birds. Larger snakes can easily feed on pigs, primates and deer.
They are ambush predators. They hide until their prey is close, and then they strike.
And Masters of Camouflage
This colorful snake has a series of irregular diamond shapes on its skin, surrounded by smaller markings. Over its wide territory, the size color and shapes of these markings will vary.
The snake's most common colors are olive green, black, white, tan, yellow, gold and brown. These patterns and colors help them easily camouflage themselves as they wait for prey to pass.
A Feast Fit for a Snake
You're probably wondering if a reticulated python can take out a human. While they are non-venomous, their large size makes them dangerous to humans, as they can easily constrict them. In fact, there are a few people who haven't been so lucky, and yes, they have been eaten.
According to scientists, once a python has you in its grip, it takes about an hour to consume you— the swallowing takes the most time.
Like Ducks to Water
Sure, on land, the reticulated python is a slow mover — it doesn't expend much energy and is content to sit back and wait for its prey. However, once they take to water, it's a different story. They are known to be strong swimmers and are often found near bodies of water, like streams and lakes.
They've even been reported quite far out to sea and have colonized islands far away from the mainland.
They Make Good Moms
The reticulated python starts sexually maturing at 2 years old and breeds from September to March. They incubate their eggs as a bird would, by sitting on them.
Female pythons wrap themselves around their offspring in an attempt to regulate the temperature of the eggs. They generate heat by contacting their muscles (also known as "shivering.")
Their Many Snake Siblings
The reticulated python is oviparous, which means it can lay several eggs at one time (80 eggs per clutch). The eggs hatch about three months later.
Once out of the egg, python babies must fend for themselves. They can grow more than 5 feet in one year.
A Long Life
This hearty snake lives a long life, and it doesn't matter if they are in captivity or not.
They typically live up to 20 years, but some have even lived a decade longer — there have been well-cared-for pythons that have reached 30 years of age.
One Smart Snake
When it comes to intelligence, this python is at the top of the food chain. Of all the constrictors, they are the smartest and are said to recognize their keepers. They also remember any negative experiences they may have had, which doesn't bode well for someone who treats them poorly.
Owning one is not for the faint of heart — personality-wise, they do have a tendency to be aggressive.
The Exotic Pet Trade
Because they are so fascinating, they are popular in the exotic pet trade. However, those who are inexperienced with the animal not only face danger, but they can actually do more harm than good to the snake.
For example, some captive pythons are known to become obese. They are fed too frequently (they only eat a few times a year in the wild) and don't have enough room to roam.
They Are Still Plentiful in Numbers ... for Now
Reticulated pythons are not threatened yet, but that may be changing. In some countries, like Thailand, they are abundant; however, in places like Timor-Leste, they may already be extinct.
Of course, like most wild animals, they are losing their habitat. They are hunted for food, medicine and the exotic pet trade.
A Different Way to Communicate
Snakes don't hear like we do — after all, they don't have ears. Like all snakes, the reticulated python is deaf and can't see well due to immovable eyelids. It "hears" with its "columella," an ossicle organ that helps it sense vibrations from movement.
These vibrations can initiate mating or warn other pythons of a possible other snake vying for dominance.
They Don't Always Need a Mate to Reproduce
Parthenogenesis, when an animal reproduces without a mate, can happen in reticulated pythons in the wild. In 2012, it also happened to a snake in captivity for the first time.
A female named Thelma gave birth to six babies at the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky. She only ever shared her enclosure with another female.
The Reticulated Python's Main Predators
So, who preys on this fierce predator? Well, other snakes, like king cobras. As they are always in or near water, crocodiles will prey on reticulated pythons.
The reticulated python's offspring have much smaller predators, though, including small mammals and birds, like hawks and eagles. Albino pythons are also easy to spot as they aren't able to camouflage themselves as easily, making them more of a target.