Indian python

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Indian python
Pratik jain dahod python.JPG
Near Nagarhole National Park
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Pythonidae
Genus: Python
P. molurus
Binomial name
Python molurus
Python molurus Area.svg
Distribution of Indian python
  • Boa ordinata Schneider, 1801
  • Boa cinerae Schneider, 1801
  • Boa castanea Schneider, 1801
  • Boa albicans Schneider, 1801
  • Boa orbiculata Schneider, 1801
  • Coluber boaeformis Shaw, 1802
  • Python bora Daudin, 1803
  • Python tigris Daudin, 1803
  • Python ordinatus Daudin, 1803
  • Python javanicus Kuhl, 1820
  • Python jamesonii Gray, 1842
  • Python (Asterophis) tigris Fitzinger, 1843

The Indian python (Python molurus) is a large python species native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.[3] It is also known by the common names black-tailed python,[4] Indian rock python, and Asian rock python.[5][6] Although smaller than its close relative the Burmese python, it is still among the largest snakes in the world. It is generally lighter colored than the Burmese python and reaches usually 3 m (9 ft 10 in).[7] Like all pythons, it is nonvenomous.


Labial heat pits

The rock python's color pattern is whitish or yellowish with the blotched patterns varying from tan to dark brown shades. This varies with terrain and habitat. Specimens from the hill forests of Western Ghats and Assam are darker, while those from the Deccan Plateau and Eastern Ghats are usually lighter.[8] All pythons are non-venomous.

The nominate subspecies occurring in India typically grows to 3 m (9 ft 10 in).[7][8] This value is supported by a 1990 study in Keoladeo National Park, where 25% of the python population was 2.7–3.3 m (8 ft 10 in – 10 ft 10 in) long. Two individuals even measured nearly 3.6 m (11 ft 10 in).[9]

Because of confusion with the Burmese python, exaggerations, and stretched skins in the past, the maximum length of this subspecies is difficult to tell. The longest scientifically recorded specimen, collected in Pakistan, was 4.6 m (15 ft 1 in) long and weighed 52 kg (114 lb 10 oz). In Pakistan, Indian pythons commonly reach a length of 2.4–3.0 m (7 ft 10 in – 9 ft 10 in).[10]

Differs from Burmese python (Python bivittatus) by the following signs:

  • the presence of light "eyes" in the centers of spots located on the sides of the trunk;
  • reddish or pinkish color of light stripes on the sides of the head;
  • a diamond - shaped spot on the head blurred in the front part;
  • usually lighter in color, dominated by brown, reddish-brown, yellowish-brown and grayish-brown tones;
  • unlike P. bivittatus, which inhabit moist and meadow habitats, it usually prefers drier and arid places;[11]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

P. molurus occurs in India, southern Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and probably in the north of Myanmar.[12] It lives in a wide range of habitats, including grasslands, swamps, marshes, rocky foothills, woodlands, open forest, and river valleys. It needs a permanent source of water.[13] It hides in abandoned mammal burrows, hollow trees, dense water reeds, and mangrove thickets.[8]


Lethargic and slow moving even in their native habitat, they exhibit timidity and rarely try to attack even when attacked. Locomotion is usually with the body moving in a straight line, by "walking on its ribs". They are excellent swimmers and are quite at home in water. They can be wholly submerged in water for many minutes if necessary, but usually prefer to remain near the bank.


Like all snakes, Indian pythons are strict carnivores and feed on mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians[14] indiscriminately, but seem to prefer mammals. Roused to activity on sighting prey, the snake advances with a quivering tail and lunges with an open mouth. Live prey is constricted and killed. One or two coils are used to hold it in a tight grip. The prey, unable to breathe, succumbs and is subsequently swallowed head first. After a heavy meal, they are disinclined to move. If forced to, hard parts of the meal may tear through the body. Therefore, if disturbed, some specimens disgorge their meal to escape from potential predators. After a heavy meal, an individual may fast for weeks, the longest recorded duration being 2 years. The python can swallow prey bigger than its diameter because the jaw bones are not connected. Moreover, prey cannot escape from its mouth because of the arrangement of the teeth (which are reverse saw-like).[citation needed]


A juvenile

Oviparous, up to 100 eggs are laid by a female, which she protects and incubates.[13] Towards this end, they are capable of raising their body temperature above the ambient level through muscular contractions.[15] The hatchlings are 45–60 cm (18–24 in) in length and grow quickly.[13] An artificial incubation method using climate-controlled environmental chambers was developed in India for successfully raising hatchlings from abandoned or unattended eggs.[16]

Conservation status[edit]

The Indian python is classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List due to a likely population decline of ~30% over the decade 2010–2020, caused by habitat loss, over-exploitation, and lack of conservation actions.[1]

A genetic study published in 2017 showed that the Burmese pythons in Florida are hybrids with P. molurus.[17]


In the literature, one other subspecies may be encountered: P. m. pimbura Deraniyagala, 1945, which is found in Sri Lanka.

The Burmese python (P. bivittatus) was referred to as a subspecies of the Indian python until 2009, when it was elevated to full species status.[18] The name Python molurus bivittatus is found in older literature.

In culture[edit]

Kaa, a large and old Indian python, is featured as one of Mowgli's mentors in Rudyard Kipling's 1894 collection The Jungle Book.


  1. ^ a b Aengals, A.; Das, A.; Mohapatra, P.; Srinivasulu, C.; Srinivasulu, B.; Shankar, G. & Murthy, B.H.C. (2021). "Python molurus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2021: e.T58894358A1945283. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  2. ^ Linnaeus, C. (1758). "Coluber molurus". Systema naturae per regna tria naturae: secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Vol. 1 (Tenth reformed ed.). Holmiae: Laurentii Salvii. p. 225.
  3. ^ McDiarmid, R. W.; Campbell, J. A.; Touré, T. (1999). "Python". Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Volume 1. Washington, DC: Herpetologists' League. ISBN 1893777014.
  4. ^ Ditmars, R. L. (1933). Reptiles of the World (Revised ed.). The MacMillan Company.
  5. ^ Walls, J. G. (1998). The Living Pythons. T. F. H. Publications. pp. 131–142. ISBN 0-7938-0467-1.
  6. ^ O'Shea, M. (2007). Boas and Pythons of the World. New Holland Publishers. pp. 80–87. ISBN 978-1-84537-544-7.
  7. ^ a b Wall, F. (1912). "A popular treatise on the common Indian snakes – The Indian Python". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 21: 447–476.
  8. ^ a b c Whitaker, R. (2006). Common Indian Snakes – A Field Guide (revised ed.). The Macmillan Company of India Limited. pp. 6–9. ISBN 9781403929556.
  9. ^ Bhupathy, S. (1990). "Blotch structure in individual identification of the Indian Python (Python molurus molurus) and its possible usage in population estimation". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 87 (3): 399–404.
  10. ^ Minton, S. A. (1966). "A contribution to the herpetology of West Pakistan". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 134 (2): 117–118. hdl:2246/1129.
  11. ^ Mark O'Shea — The quest species — Indian rock python & Burmese rock python
  12. ^ Whitaker, R.; Captain, A. (2004). Snakes of India. The field guide. Chennai, India: Draco Books. pp. 3, 12, 78–81. ISBN 81-901873-0-9.
  13. ^ a b c Mehrtens, J. M. (1987). Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X..
  14. ^ "Python molurus (Indian Python)". Animal Diversity Web.
  15. ^ Hutchison, V. H.; Dowling, H. G. & Vinegar, A. (1966). "Thermoregulation in a Brooding Female Indian Python, Python molurus bivittatus". Science. 151 (3711): 694–695. Bibcode:1966Sci...151..694H. doi:10.1126/science.151.3711.694. PMID 5908075. S2CID 45839432.
  16. ^ Balakrishnan, P-; Sajeev, T.V.; Bindu, T.N. (2010). "Artificial incubation, hatching and release of the Indian Rock Python Python molurus (Linnaeus, 1758), in Nilambur, Kerala" (PDF). Reptile Rap. 10: 24–27. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-08-27. Retrieved 2014-10-25.
  17. ^ Hunter, Margaret E.; Johnson, Nathan A.; Smith, Brian J.; Davis, Michelle C.; Butterfield, John S. S.; Snow, Ray W.; Hart, Kristen M. (2017-08-02). "Cytonuclear discordance in the Florida Everglades invasive Burmese python (Python bivittatus) population reveals possible hybridization with the Indian python (P. molurus)". Ecology and Evolution. 8 (17): 9034–9047. doi:10.1002/ece3.4423. PMC 6157680. PMID 30271564.
  18. ^ Jacobs, H.J.; Auliya, M.; Böhme, W. (2009). "On the taxonomy of the Burmese Python, Python molurus bivittatus KUHL, 1820, specifically on the Sulawesi population". Sauria. 31 (3): 5–11.

Further reading[edit]

  • Whitaker R. (1978). Common Indian Snakes: A Field Guide. Macmillan India Limited.
  • Daniel, JC. The Book Of Indian Snakes and Reptiles. Bombay Natural History Society

External links[edit]