Morelia spilota

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Morelia spilota
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Pythonidae
Genus: Morelia
Species: M. spilota
Binomial name
Morelia spilota
(Lacépède, 1804)

Morelia spilota is a large snake of the Pythonidae family found in Australia, Indonesia and New Guinea. There are 6 subspecies listed by ITIS, commonly referred to as carpet pythons and diamond pythons.[2][3][4]


M. s. spilota

Morelia spilota is a large species of python in the genus Morelia, reaching between 2 to 4 metres (6.6 to 13.1 ft) in length and weighing up to 15 kilograms (33 lb). M. s. mcdowelli is the largest subspecies, regularly attaining lengths of 2.7–3 m (8.9–9.8 ft).[5] M. s. variegata is the smallest subspecies, averaging 120–180 cm (3.9–5.9 ft) in length. The average adult length is roughly 2 metres (6.6 ft). However, one 3-year-old captive male M. s. mcdowelli, measured in Ireland, was found to exceed 396 cm (12.99 ft). Males are typically smaller than females; in some regions females are up to four times heavier.[5] The head is triangular with a conspicuous row of thermoreceptive labial pits.

The colouring of Morelia spilota is highly variable, olive to black with white or cream and gold markings. The patterning may be roughly diamond shaped or have intricate markings made up of light and dark bands on a background of gray or a version of brown.


The species is oviparous, with females laying 10-50 eggs at a time. Afterward, females coil around the eggs to protect them and keep them warm through using muscular contractions to generate heat .[citation needed] This type of maternal care, which is typical for pythons, ceases once the hatchlings have emerged.


Described as semi-arboreal, they are largely nocturnal, climbing trees and shrubs as well as crossing open areas such as rock faces, forest floors and even roads. However, basking behaviour is commonly observed.


The diet consists mainly of small mammals, bats, birds and lizards. Morelia spilota kills prey by constricting it until it suffocates. It is often the largest predator in its ecological niche.

Geographic range[edit]

The species is found throughout mainland Australia, with the exception of the arid centre and the western regions. It is widely distributed throughout the forest regions of Southwest Australia.[6] It is also found in Indonesia (southern Western New Guinea in Merauke Regency), Papua New Guinea (southern Western Province, the Port Moresby area of Central Province), and on Yule Island. The type locality given is "Nouvelle-Hollande" [Australia].[7]


Morelia spilota mcdowelli in the Lamington National Park, Queensland, Australia.

Occurs in a wide variety of habitats, from the rainforests of northeastern Queensland (M. s. cheynei) through the River Red Gum/Riverbox woodlands of the Murray and Darling Rivers (M. s. metcalfei), to the arid, treeless islands of the Nuyts Archipelago off the South Australian west coast (M. s. imbricata). Often found near human habitation where they perform a useful service by eating rats and other vermin. M. s. spilota is known to occur in areas that receive snowfall. Morelia spilota are tree snakes; they do not completely rely on trees, however, and are capable of moving around elsewhere. Carpet pythons are also found in temperate grasslands with hot and dry weather.


The nominate subspecies, Morelia spilota spilota, is listed as threatened with extinction in Victoria.[8] The subspecies M. spilota imbricata is regarded as near threatened in Western Australia, due to loss of habitat.[6]


This species is a popular pet among enthusiasts. Some forms can be more irascible than others, such as M. s. mcdowelli and M. s. variegata. Forms that tend to be more even tempered include M. s. spilota and M. s. metcalfei. However this is not a hard rule. Although they can grow to a reasonable size (2-3.5 m) and can be nippy as hatchlings, most will grow into docile adults. However, care must be taken when feeding, as these snakes have a strong "feeding response", behaviour that can be mistaken for aggression. Captive specimens are normally fed live or frozen rats. They may have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years.

The care requirements can be generalised for all subspecies.[9] The subspecies Morelia spilota spilota, the cold weather Diamond python, has some separate requirements and habits.[10]


The geographic distribution and common names can summarised as follows:[2][7]

Subspecies[2] Taxon author[2] Common name Geographic range
M. s. cheynei Wells & Wellington, 1984 Jungle carpet python Australia in northeastern Queensland.
M. s. imbricata (L.A. Smith, 1981) Southern carpet python Across Southwest Australia to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.
M. s. mcdowelli Wells & Wellington, 1984 Coastal carpet python Australia in eastern Queensland and northeastern New South Wales.
M. s. metcalfei Wells & Wellington, 1984 Inland carpet python Australia in the Murray-Darling Basin of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
M. s. spilota (Lacépède, 1804) Diamond python Australia in eastern New South Wales and the extreme east of Victoria.
M. s. variegata J.E.Gray, 1842 Darwin carpet python Australia in northwestern Western Australia and in the northern portion of the Northern Territory.
M. s. harrisoni[11] Hoser, 2000 Irian Jaya or Papuan carpet python New Guinea (Western New Guinea and Papua New Guinea).

Naming and taxonomy[edit]

The first description of Morelia spilota was by Lacépède (1804), who placed it in the genus Coluber as Coluber spilotus. The species has since been described by various authors as containing a number of subspecies and hybrids, these have also been known by various informal names.[4][12] The attempted arrangement of taxa in this, and other, Australasian Pythonidae has produced numerous synonyms. The discrete and roaming habits of this species have produced a low number of recorded specimens, giving inadequate sample numbers to support descriptions of a taxon's morphology.[8] This is the case with proposed names which are sometimes cited, such as the Papuan Morelia spilota harrisoni (Hoser),[13] despite being unaccepted or invalid.[14] Common names are regional variants of Carpet and Diamond Python, or Snake.[15][16] The database ITIS lists six subspecies with valid names,[2] these may be summarised as follows:

Morelia Gray, 1842 (Pythonidae)
Morelia amethistina (Schneider, 1801)
Morelia boeleni (Brongersma, 1953)
Morelia bredli (Gow, 1981)
Morelia carinata (L.A. Smith, 1981)
Morelia oenpelliensis (Gow, 1977)
Morelia spilota (Lacépède, 1804)
Morelia spilota cheynei
Morelia spilota imbricata
Morelia spilota mcdowelli
Morelia spilota metcalfei
Morelia spilota spilota
Morelia spilota variegata
Morelia viridis (Schlegel, 1872)

Early descriptions placed this species in other genera, Coluber or Python, and Morelia argus is a synonym for this species. The following is an incomplete list of synonyms:[7][12]

  • [Coluber] Arges - Linnaeus, 1758
  • [Coluber] Argus - Linnaeus, 1766
  • Coluber spilotus - Lacépède, 1804
  • [Python] punctatus - Merrem, 1820
  • [Coluber (Natrix)] Argus - Merrem, 1820
  • [Vipera (Echidna)] Spilotes - Merrem, 1820
  • Python Peronii - Wagler, 1828
  • Python spilotes - Gray In G. Grey, 1841
  • Morelia punctata - Gray, 1842
  • Morelia argus - A.M.C. Duméril & Bibron, 1844
  • Morelia spilotes - Gray, 1849
  • M[orelia]. argus var. fasciolata - Jan In Jan & Sordelli, 1864
  • Python spilotes - Boulenger, 1893
  • [Python spilotes spilotes] - Werner, 1909
  • Python spilotes macrospila - Werner, 1909
  • Morelia argus - Loveridge, 1934
  • Morelia argus - Stull, 1935
  • Morelia spilotes spilotes - Worrell, 1961
  • Morelia argus argus - Stimson, 1969
  • Python spilotes - McDowell, 1975
  • [Python spilotus spilotus] - L.A. Smith, 1981
  • Morelia spilota - Cogger, Cameron & Cogger, 1983
  • Morelia spilota - Underwood & Stimson, 1990
  • Morelia spilota spilota - Barker & Barker, 1994

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e ."Morelia spilota". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 17 September 2007. 
  3. ^ Browne-Cooper, Robert; Bush, Brian; Maryan, Brad; Robinson, David (2007). Reptiles and Frogs in the Bush: Southwestern Australia. University of Western Australia Press. p. 99. ISBN 978-1-920694-74-6. 
  4. ^ a b Cogger, Harold G. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. 
  5. ^ a b "Carpet Python Morelia spilota (Lacépède, 1804)". FaunaBase. Department of Environment and Conservation. Retrieved 2008-10-20. 
  6. ^ a b Pearson, D.; Shine, R. ; Williams, A. (May 2005). "Spatial ecology of a threatened python (Morelia spilota imbricata) and the effects of anthropogenic habitat change". Austral Ecology 30 (3): 261–274(14). doi:10.1111/j.1442-9993.2005.01462.x. 
  7. ^ a b c McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 1999. Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, Volume 1. Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
  8. ^ a b "Action statement: Diamond Python Morelia spilota spilota ". Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 No. 104. Department of Sustainability and Environment. Retrieved 2008-10-20. 
  9. ^ "Carpet pythons (Morelia spilotes sp.)". Care Sheet. Monaro Amphibian & Reptile Keepers (MARK). Retrieved 2008-10-20. 
  10. ^ "Diamond Pythons (Morelia spilota spilota)". Care Sheet. Monaro Amphibian & Reptile Keepers (MARK). Retrieved 2008-10-20. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b Morelia spilota at the Reptile Database. Accessed 17 September 2007.
  13. ^ Hoser, R. (2000a) A revision of the Australasian pythons. Ophidia Review 1(1): 7-27.
  14. ^ Wüster, W., B. Bush, J.S. Keogh, M. O'Shea & R. Shine (2001). "Taxonomic contributions in the "amateur" literature: comments on recent descriptions of new genera and species by Raymond Hoser.". Litteratura Serpentium 21: 67-79, 86-91. 
  15. ^ Mehrtens JM. 1987. Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. 480 pp. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X.
  16. ^ Ditmars RL. 1933. Reptiles of the World. Revised Edition. The MacMillan Company. 329 pp. 89 plates.

Further reading[edit]

  • Lacépède, B.G. 1804. Mémoire sur plusieurs animaux de la Nouvelle-Hollande dont la description n'a pas encore été publiée. Annales du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris 4: 184-211. (Coluber spilotus, p. 209.)
  • Mattison, C. 1999. Snake. DK Publishing. ISBN 0-7894-4660-X.

External links[edit]

Data related to Morelia spilota at Wikispecies Media related to Morelia spilota at Wikimedia Commons