Morelia spilota spilota

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Morelia spilota spilota
Diamond python.jpg
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Pythonidae
Genus: Morelia
M. s. spilota
Trinomial name
Morelia spilota spilota
(Lacépède, 1804)
  • Coluber spilotus Lacépède, 1804
  • Python spilotus spilotus
    — L.A. Smith, 1981[1]
  • Morelia spilota
    — Wells & Wellington, 1984
  • Morelia spilota spilota
    — Barker & Barker, 1994[2]

Morelia spilota spilota is a subspecies of carpet python (Morelia spilota), popularly known as the diamond python. It is a medium to large snake, found in coastal areas and adjacent ranges of south-eastern Australia. They are the most southerly occurring python in the world and are found at higher altitudes than any other species of Australian python.


They are quite variable in colour and pattern, typically being predominantly dark olive to black in colour with most dorsal scales having a yellow (or cream) spot in the centre (hence spilota, meaning spotted). Along the body and tail are numerous clusters of yellow or cream scales that form 'rosettes' that look a bit like diamonds (hence their common name). The underside is white, cream or even yellowish in colour, although it is often spotted with black.

The average adult size of this subspecies is usually about 2 m (6.6 ft) in total length, although they are known to reach maximum total lengths of about 3 m (9.8 ft), with very rare specimens recorded at up to 4 m (13 ft). They also are known for living in the forests of New South Wales.[citation needed]


They are oviparous snakes, averaging 25 eggs in a clutch and laying up to 54 eggs. The female defends her eggs by coiling around them and shivering to regulate their temperature. She does not leave the eggs to eat during the incubation period, apart from briefly basking in the sun to raise her body temperature and then returning. Maternal care does not continue once the young have emerged. Juveniles resemble other M. spilota subspecies, although they become more distinct in their appearance as they mature. Hatchlings are typically browner in colour rather than the typical black of adult colouration and superficially resemble other carpet python subspecies. [3][4]

Wild diamond python in the Wallingat National Park
Morelia spilota spilota (diamond python) - head of an adult, with coarse road gravel and leaf for size comparison

Geographic range[edit]

The subspecies is found in southern coastal regions of New South Wales and Victoria.[4] It lives in a variety of habitats, including heaths, woodland, forest, and urban areas. It is known to occupy the roof space of suburban homes, living on mice and rats.[5] It has a limited distribution range in Victoria, where it is regarded as rare and threatened by reduction in available habitat. In New South Wales, it is recorded as naturally hybridising with the closely related northern subspecies M. s. mcdowelli in the northern parts of the diamond python's range. These natural intergrades are found on the mid-north coast of NSW.

M. s. spilota can be found at higher altitudes (for example, in the eastern Gippsland region and Blue Mountains) than any other member of the family Pythonidae. It is usually found on the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range, but can also be found on the ranges and occasionally some distance from the coast. It has the most southerly distribution of all python taxa. Few populations are recorded in the state of Victoria, and changes in land use have this subspecies listed as threatened with extinction.[3] They are also known to occur in rocky habitat during winter months.[6]


The Diamond Python is typically inoffensive by nature and generally reluctant to bite. These pythons are ambush predators with large territories that often overlap. They move around these seasonally to occupy well camouflaged positions in the warmer months and brumate in the winter months. The females have a range up to 50 ha (120 acres); males may occupy an area almost twice as large. They are often active during the day and on warm nights, although most of their time is spent waiting in ambush for passing prey. They typically remain in one position for up to two weeks, before moving to another around 100 m (330 ft) away.[3] M. s. spilota kills its food by constricting and suffocating it, and preys on lizards, birds, and mammals as large as possums. They are not a danger to humans, but are capable of biting and leaving teeth in the wound if severely harassed.[4]


It is the nominate subspecies for Morelia spilota, a species first described by Lacépède.[7][8]


The diamond python is often kept in captivity by collectors in Australia and around the world. The capture of wild specimens is illegal; however, they are successfully bred in captivity to supply the demand for this popular reptile. They are usually fed on a diet of rodents and kept in controlled environments such as a vivarium.[9] Captive-bred and -raised specimens become quite tame, tolerate gentle handling, and make good pets. It is one of the few snakes that typically emerge from the egg with a placid, nondefensive nature.


  1. ^ "Morelia spilota". The Reptile Database. Peter Uetz. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  2. ^ 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).
  3. ^ a b c "Action statement: Diamond Python Morelia spilota spilota " (PDF). Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 No. 104. Department of Sustainability and Environment. Retrieved 2008-10-20.
  4. ^ a b c "Diamond Python fact file". Wildlife of Sydney. Australian Museum. 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-20.
  5. ^ Cogger, Harold G. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. New Holland Publishing Pty. Ltd. 808 pp. ISBN 9781876334338.
  6. ^ Slip, DJ; R Shine (1988). "Habitat Use, Movements and Activity Patterns of Free-Ranging Diamond Pythons, Morelia-Spilota-Spilota (Serpentes, Boidae) — a Radiotelemetric Study". Wildlife Research. CSIRO. Retrieved 2008-10-20.
  7. ^ "Morelia spilota spilota". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved Oct 20, 2008.
  8. ^ Morelia spilota at the Reptile Database. Accessed 17 September 2007.
  9. ^ "Diamond Pythons (Morelia spilota spilota)". Care Sheet. Monaro Amphibian & Reptile Keepers (MARK). Archived from the original on 2008-08-28. Retrieved 2008-10-20.

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.)