(W. Peters & Doria, 1878)
Leiopython is a genus of nonvenomous pythonid snakes, which currently comprises six species. It was formerly a monotypic genus created for the species, L. albertisii, found in New Guinea, described here. No subspecies are currently recognized. Leiopython was first described as an intermediate genus between Liasis and Nardoa.
Female adults of the northern white-lipped python (Leiopython albertisii) grow to an average of about 213 cm in length (6–7 ft), whereas the southern white-lipped python (L. hoserae) can reach up to 300 cm (10 ft) in length. They are patternless, except the northern white-lipped python has some light markings on its postoculars, which are absent in the southern white-lipped python. The snout is triangular and the head is distinct from the neck. The dorsum of the head is shiny black, the upper and lower labial scales are white with black markings on the anterior edge of the scales. Body color is either brownish-violet fading to yellowish ventrally (L. albertisii) or blackish-blue fading to gray (L. hoserae). These pythons also regurgitate fur balls, also known as "castings". This behavior is rarely seen, but 2–3 days after feeding, the results are seen. Owners of white-lipped pythons often think their snake is regurgitating its food.
The type locality given is "Kapaor in Nova Guinea boreali occidentali ... et prope Andai ". The authors also stated localities for two additional specimens: "... un esemplare a Kapaor fra i Papua Onin..." and "... un secondo esemplare ad Andai presso Dorei..." (Kapoar, Onin Peninsula and Andai, near Dorei, Irian Jaya, Indonesia).
Some doubt can be cast on its occurrence on Normanby, as McDowell (1975) had erroneously assigned Bara Bara to this island, rather than to the mainland of Papua New Guinea in Milne Bay Province as stated by Boulenger (1898) and Koopman (1982).
Associated with rain forests, cutover clearings and swamps, they are usually found near water, into which they may quickly retreat if disturbed. They often hide under dead leaves on forest floor.
The diet includes a range of small- to medium-sized birds and mammals. Neonates and juveniles often feed on lizards.
The oviparous females lay about a dozen eggs. The eggs stick together in a compact pile, and the females coils around them. The hatchlings emerge after about two months of incubation and are about 38 cm (15 inches) in length.
A new species L. hoserae, and two new subspecies L. albertisii barkeri and L. a. bennetti, were described in Hoser (2000), but these descriptions are considered vague and questionable. In 2008, Schleip redescribed and provided proper descriptions and diagnoses for two of Hoser's (2000) taxa, Leiopython hoserae, from the southern lowlands of Papua New Guinea and neighbouring Indonesia, and L. benettorum, from the highlands of Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. A third, Leiopython albertisii barkeri was considered a nomen nudum due to Hoser not having provided a description that includes characters to differentiate this taxon from others. Three new species were also described: L. biakensis from the island of Biak (part of the Indonesian Province of Papua, L. fredparkeri from the Karimui Basin, Simbu Province, Papua New Guinea, and L. huonensis from the Huon Peninsula, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea.
The taxonomy of the Pythonidae family is fluid; however, an arrangement of the genus may be summarised as:
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- Peters W, Doria G. 1878. "Catalogo dei rettili e dei batraci raccolti da O. Beccari, L. M. D'Albertis e A. A. Bruijn nella sotto-regione austro-malese". Annali del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Genova, Series 1, 13: 323-450. ("Liasis Albertisii, n. sp.", pp. 401-403 + Plate III, Figure 2).
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- McDowell SB. 1975. "A catalogue of the snakes of New Guinea and the Solomon’s, with special Reference to Those in the Bernice P. Bishop Museum. Part II". (24.02.1975). Journal of Herpetology 9 (1): 1-79.
- Boulenger GA. 1898. "An account of the reptiles and batrachians collected by Dr. L. Loria in British New Guinea". Annali del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Genova, Series 2, 18: 694-710.
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- Hoser R. 2000. A Revision of the Australasian pythons. HTML at Smuggled.com. Accessed 10 September 2007.
- Leiopython albertisii at the Reptarium.cz Reptile Database. Accessed 9 September 2007.
- Wüster W, Bush B, Keogh JS, O'Shea M, Shine R. 2001. "Taxonomic contributions in the "amateur" literature: comments on recent descriptions of new genera and species by Raymond Hoser". Litteratura Serpentium 21: 67-91. PDF at Wolfgang Wüster. Accessed 10 September 2007.
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- Leiopython.de. Accessed 4 January 2009.