Burmese Python Fact File
The Burmese python is among the world’s largest snake species. They reach lengths of up to 6m (20ft). On average they are about half of this size. They weigh 90.7kg (200lbs). Females are typically larger than the males.
Their skin is coloured tan or grey. This is patterned with large blotches of brown scales that are surrounded by a ring of cream or gold scales. On top of the head is a marking which resembles an arrowhead that is present on all individuals. A line also runs across the top of each eye.
They have a vestigial limb which is the remains of legs that these snakes once had. They are located on the sides of the cloaca.
An albino version of this snake is often bred in captivity.
Burmese pythons are carnivores. They feed on a range of mammals. Their large size allows them to take down large animals such as deer. The population in Florida has been known to prey on alligators.
As a python they obtain their prey by squeezing it and using their large muscles to crush the prey before swallowing it whole. They are able to swallow prey larger than their mouth due to the stretchy ligaments that comprise their jaw.
Due to their poor eyesight they find prey using their sense of smell and a heat sensing pit alongside their jaw.
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Asia is the native home of the Burmese python. Here they can be found throughout Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Viet Nam.
Populations have been introduced to Singapore and Florida in the United States of America where they are now an invasive species. The Florida population is believed to have established following a hurricane which destroyed a breeding facility allowing the pythons to escape. Since then they have become a significant threat to local wildlife.
These highly adaptable snakes live in a wide variety of habitats including forest, scrubland, mountains grasslands, wetlands and desert. They are often seen in water and their habitats normally include water.
Burmese pythons will take shelter in burrows, caves, crevices, logs and the ruins of old structures.
Mating takes place from December to February and eggs are laid between March and June.
Females lay their eggs in a group and then wrap their body around these which provides the heat needed to incubate the eggs using their body heat. The eggs are laid in a tree hollow or scrape. A clutch may include up to 100 eggs. Once this occurs they will remain with the eggs for their entire 60 day incubation period. During this incubation period the female will not eat.
They are one of the only known pythons which are capable of parthenogenesis. This means that females can reproduce without a male being present. The resulting young are genetically identical to the mother.
At hatching the young measure 60cm (24in).
Sexual maturity is reached at 3 years of age. Males typically reach maturity earlier than the females.
The Burmese python is solitary. Individuals only come together during the breeding season to mate.
Their behavior varies throughout their lifespan. When young they are adept climbers and will spend much of their time in the trees. As they begin to grow their large size makes tree dwelling difficult and they tend to spend most of their time on the ground as adults.
They are capable swimmers and when they are underwater they can stay submerged for 30 minutes before they need to come up for a breath.
Predators and Threats
Most predators of this species eat the young with the adults being too large for most predators to harm. They may be eaten by crocodiles or monitors. In Florida they are preyed upon by cougars, bobcats and American alligators.
Humans affect their population through hunting for food, to obtain their skin for cloths and jewelry and traditional medicines. They are also captured for the pet trade.
A burmese python which weighed 182kg (403lbs) is recognized as the largest snake in captivity.
They are also known as the Indian python.
Burmese pythons are seen as a good pet due to their normally docile nature. Due to their large size they can cause significant harm to their owners.
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