Reticulated python

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Reticulated python
Python reticulatus сетчатый питон-2.jpg
Not evaluated (IUCN 3.1)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Pythonidae
Genus: Python
Species: P. reticulatus
Binomial name
Python reticulatus
(Schneider, 1801)[1]
Python reticulatus Area.PNG
Synonyms
  • Boa reticulata Schneider, 1801
  • Boa rhombeata Schneider, 1801
  • Boa phrygia Shaw, 1802
  • Coluber javanicus Shaw, 1802
  • Python schneideri Merrem, 1820
  • Python reticulatus Gray, 1842
  • Python reticulatus
    Boulenger, 1893
  • Morelia reticulatus Welch, 1988
  • Python reticulatus
    Kluge, 1993[2]
  • Broghammerus reticulatus
    – Hoser, 2003/2004[3][4]
  • Malayopython reticulatus
    R.G. Reynolds et al., 2014[5]

The reticulated python (Python reticulatus)[1] is a species of python found in Southeast Asia. They are the world's longest snakes and longest reptiles and among the three heaviest snakes. Like all pythons, they are nonvenomous constrictors and normally not considered dangerous to humans. Although large specimens are powerful enough to kill an adult human, attacks are only occasionally reported.

An excellent swimmer, P. reticulatus has been reported far out at sea and has colonized many small islands within its range. The specific name, reticulatus, is Latin meaning "net-like", or reticulated, and is a reference to the complex color pattern.[6]

Description[edit]

P. reticulatus head

This species is the largest snake native to Asia. More than a thousand wild reticulated pythons in southern Sumatra were studied and estimated to have a length range of 1.5 to 6.5 m (4.9 to 21.3 ft) and a weight range of 1 to 75 kg (2.2 to 165.3 lb).[7] Reticulated pythons with lengths more than 6 m (19.7 ft) are rare, though according to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the only extant snake to regularly exceed that length.[8] A reticulated python of the same length as a green anaconda may weigh only half as much as the bulkier anaconda.[8] One of the largest scientifically measured specimens, from Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, was measured under anesthesia at 6.95 m (22.8 ft) and weighed 59 kg (130 lb) after not having eaten for nearly 3 months.[9] Widely published data of specimens that were reported to be several feet longer have not been confirmed.

The specimen once widely accepted as the largest-ever "accurately" measured snake, that being Colossus, a specimen kept at the Highland Park Zoo (now the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during the 1950s and early 1960s, with a peak reported length of 8.7 metres (28 ft 7 in) from a measurement in November 1956, was later shown to have been substantially shorter than previously reported. When Colossus died on April 14, 1963, its body was deposited in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. At that time, its skeleton was measured and found to be 20 ft 10 in (6.35 m) in total length, and the length of its fresh hide was measured as 23 ft 11 in (7.29 m) – both measurements being significantly shorter than what had been previously estimated in 1956.[10] The hide tends to stretch from the skinning process, and thus be longer than the snake from which it came – e.g., by roughly 20–40% or more.[11] The previous reports had been constructed by combining partial measurements with estimations to compensate for "kinks", since it is virtually impossible to completely straighten an extremely large live python. Because of these issues, a 2012 journal article concluded that "Colossus was neither the longest snake nor the heaviest snake ever maintained in captivity." Too large to be preserved with formaldehyde and then stored in alcohol, the specimen was instead prepared as a disarticulated skeleton. The hide was sent to a laboratory to be tanned, but it was either lost or destroyed, and now only the skull and selected vertebrae and ribs remain in the museum's collection.[10] There is considerable confusion in the literature over whether Colossus was male or female (females tend to be larger).[11][10]

Numerous reports have been made of larger snakes, but since none of these was measured by a scientist nor any of the specimens deposited at a museum, they must be regarded as unproven and possibly erroneous. In spite of what has been, for many years, a standing offer of a large financial reward (initially $1,000, later raised to $5,000, then $15,000 in 1978 and $50,000 in 1980) for a live, healthy snake over 30 ft (9.1 m) long by the New York Zoological Society (later renamed as the Wildlife Conservation Society), no attempt to claim this reward has ever been made.[11]

Skull diagram

The color pattern is a complex geometric pattern that incorporates different colors. The back typically has a series of irregular diamond shapes flanked by smaller markings with light centers. In this species' wide geographic range, much variation of size, color, and markings commonly occurs.

The "reticulated" net-like patterning that gives the reticulated python its name

In zoo exhibits, the color pattern may seem garish, but in a shadowy jungle environment amid fallen leaves and debris, it allows them to virtually disappear. Called disruptive coloration, it protects them from predators and helps them to catch their prey.[12]

The smooth dorsal scales are arranged in 69–79 rows at midbody. There are deep pits on four anterior upper labials, on two or three anterior lower labials, and on five or six posterior lower labials.[13]

Geographic range[edit]

Reticulated pythons are found in South Asia from the Nicobar Islands, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore, east through Indonesia and the Indo-Australian Archipelago (Sumatra, the Mentawai Islands, the Natuna Islands, Borneo, Sulawesi, Java, Lombok, Sumbawa, Sumba, Flores, Timor, Maluku, Tanimbar Islands) and the Philippines (Basilan, Bohol, Cebu, Leyte, Luzon, Mindanao, Mindoro, Negros, Palawan, Panay, Polillo, Samar, Tawi-Tawi). The original description does not include a type locality. Restricted to "Java" by Brongersma (1972).[2]

Three subspecies have been proposed,[14] but are not recognized in the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). The color and size can vary a great deal among the subspecies described. Geographical location is a good key to establishing the subspecies, as each one has a distinct geographical range.

Habitat[edit]

The reticulated python lives in rain forests, woodlands, and nearby grasslands. It is also associated with rivers and is found in areas with nearby streams and lakes. An excellent swimmer, it has even been reported far out at sea and has consequently colonized many small islands within its range.[12] During the early years of the 20th century, it is said to have been common even in busy parts of Bangkok, sometimes eating domestic animals.[15]

Feeding[edit]

Their natural diet includes mammals and occasionally birds. Small specimens up to 3–4 m (9.8–13.1 ft) long eat mainly rodents such as rats, whereas larger individuals switch to prey such as Viverridae (e.g. civets and binturongs), and even primates and pigs. Near human habitation, they are known to snatch stray chickens, cats, and dogs on occasion. Among the largest, fully documented prey items to have been taken are a half-starved sun bear of 23 kilograms that was eaten by a 6.95-m (22.8-ft) specimen and took some ten weeks to digest, as well as pigs of more than 60 kg (132 lb).[16] As a rule, these snakes seem able to swallow prey up to one-quarter their own length and up to their own weight.[17] As with all pythons, they are primarily ambush hunters, usually waiting until prey wanders within strike range before seizing it in their coils and killing by constriction. However, at least one case is reported of a foraging python entering a forest hut and taking a child.[18]

Danger to humans[edit]

Attacks on humans are rare, but this species has been responsible for several human fatalities, in both the wild and captivity. They are among the few snakes that have been suggested to prey on humans. Reports of human fatalities and unauthenticated sources of human consumption include:

  • Two incidents, apparently in early 20th-century Indonesia: On Salibabu, a 14-year-old boy was killed and supposedly eaten by a specimen 5.17 m (17.0 ft) in length. Another incident involved an adult woman reputedly eaten by a "large reticulated python", but few details are known.[19]
  • Franz Werner reported a case from Burma occurring either in the early 1910s or in 1927.[11] A jeweller named Maung Chit Chine, who went hunting with his friends, was apparently eaten by a 6 m (19.7 ft) specimen after he sought shelter from a rainstorm in or under a tree. Supposedly, he was swallowed feet-first, contrary to normal snake behavior, but perhaps the easiest way for a snake to actually swallow a human.[20]
  • In 1932, Frank Buck wrote about a teenage boy who was eaten by a pet 25 ft (7.6 m) reticulated python in the Philippines. According to Buck, the python escaped, and when it was found, a human child's shape was recognized inside the snake, and turned out to be the son of the snake's owner.[21]
  • Among a small group of Aeta negritos in the Philippines, six deaths by python were said to have been documented within a period of 40 years, plus one who died later of an infected bite.[18]
  • On September 4, 1995, Ee Heng Chuan, a 29-year-old rubber tapper from the southern Malaysian state of Johor, was reported to have been killed by a large reticulated python. The victim had apparently been caught unaware and was squeezed to death. The snake had coiled around the lifeless body with the victim's head gripped in its jaws when it was stumbled upon by the victim's brother. The python, reported as measuring 23 ft (7.0 m) long and weighing more than 300 lb, was killed soon after by the arriving police, who shot it four times.[11]
  • On October 23, 2008, a 25-year-old Virginia Beach, Virginia woman, Amanda Ruth Black, appeared to have been killed by a 13-foot (4.0 m) pet reticulated python. The apparent cause of death was asphyxiation. The snake was later found in the bedroom in an agitated state.[22]
  • On January 21, 2009, a 3-year-old Las Vegas boy was wrapped in the coils of an 18-foot (5.5 m) pet reticulated python, turning blue. The boy's mother, who had been babysitting the python on behalf of a friend, rescued the toddler by gashing the python with a knife. The snake was later euthanized because of its wounds.[23]

Considering the known maximum prey size, it is technically possible for a full-grown specimen of P. reticulatus to open its jaws wide enough to swallow a human teenager, but the width of the shoulders of adult Homo sapiens would probably pose a problem for even a snake with sufficient size.

Reproduction[edit]

Oviparous, females lay between 15 and 80 eggs per clutch. At an optimum incubation temperature of 31–32°C (88–90°F), the eggs take an average of 88 days to hatch.[24] Hatchlings are at least 2 ft (61 cm) in length.[15]

Captivity[edit]

Reticulated python with an unusual color pattern: Various color patterns are found in captive-bred specimens – some brought about by selective breeding.

Increased popularity in the pet trade is due largely to increased efforts in captive breeding and selectively bred mutations such as the "albino" and "tiger" strains. They can make good captives, but keepers should have previous experience with such large constrictors to ensure safety to both animal and keeper. Although their interactivity and beauty draws much attention, some feel they are unpredictable.[25][26] They do not attack humans by nature, but will bite and possibly constrict if they feel threatened, or mistake a hand for food. While not venomous, large pythons can inflict serious injuries, sometimes requiring stitches.

The huge size and attractive pattern of these snakes has made them favorite zoo exhibits, with several individuals claimed to be above 20 ft (6.1 m) in length and more than one claimed to be the largest in captivity.[27][28][29][30] However, due to their huge size, immense strength, aggressive disposition, and the mobility of the skin relative to the body, it is very difficult to get exact length measurements on a living reticulated python, and weights are rarely indicative, as captive pythons are often obese.[11] Claims made by zoos and animal parks are sometimes exaggerated, such as the claimed 14.85 m (48.7 ft) snake in Indonesia which was subsequently proven to be about 6.5 m (21.3 ft) long.[31][32] For this reason, scientists do not accept the validity of length measurements unless performed on a dead or anesthetized snake which is later preserved in a museum collection or stored for scientific research.[11]

Also, dwarf forms of reticulated pythons occur, typically separate subspecies of the nominate mainland subspecies or crossbreeds thereof, from some islands that are north west of Australia, and where the adults rarely get more than 15 feet (4.6 m) long but are being bred to be much smaller. Males can be at most 5 feet (1.5 m) long, females a little longer.[citation needed]

Taxonomy[edit]

Leather goods and skins of Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) and reticulated python at a local shop at Mandalay, Burma

Three subspecies may be encountered, including two new ones:

  • P. r. reticulatus (Schneider, 1801) – Called "retics" in herpetoculture.
  • P. r. jampeanus Auliya et al., 2002 – Kayaudi dwarf reticulated pythons or Jampea retics, about half the length,[24] or according to Auliya et al. (2002), not reaching much more than 2 m (6.6 ft) in length.[14] Found on Tanahjampea in the Selayar Archipelago south of Sulawesi. Closely related to P. r. reticulatus of the Lesser Sundas.[14]
  • P. r. saputrai Auliya et al., 2002 – Selayer reticulated pythons or Selayer retics. Found on Selayar Island in the Selayar Archipelago and also adjacent Sulawesi. This subspecies represents a sister lineage to all other populations of reticulated pythons tested.[14] According to Auliya et al. (2002) it does not exceed 4 m (13.1 ft) in length.[14]

The latter two are dwarf subspecies. Apparently, the population of the Sangihe Islands north of Sulawesi represents another such subspecies which is basal to the P. r. reticulatus plus P. r. jampeanus clade, but it is not yet formally described.[14]

The proposed subspecies "dalegibbonsi", "euanedwardsi", "haydnmacphiei", "neilsonnemani", "patrickcouperi", and "stuartbigmorei"[3][33] have not found general acceptance.

A phylogenetic study of pythons has suggested that the reticulated python as well as the Timor python are more closely related to Australasian pythons, suggesting that they are an intermediate form between the Australasian pythons and the Afro-Asian genus Python, and should therefore be placed in a separate genus.[34] The genus name Broghammerus was proposed by Raymond T. Hoser in 2003/2004.[3][4] Reynolds et al. described the genus Malayopython for this species and its sister species, the Timor python, calling the Timor python M. timoriensis.[5] Hoser has since said that the Malayopython name is a junior synonym of Broghammerus and thus should not be recognized by the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.[35] Neither of these proposed reclassifications has been recognized by the ITIS.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Python reticulatus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 12 September 2007. 
  2. ^ a b McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 1999. Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, Volume 1. Washington, District of Columbia: Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
  3. ^ a b c Hoser, Raymond (2003). "HTML A Reclassification of the Pythoninae Including the Descriptions of Two New Genera, Two New Species, and Nine New Subspecies. Part I". Crocodilian. 4 (3): 31–37. 
  4. ^ a b http://www.smuggled.com/issue-16-19-26.pdf
  5. ^ a b Reynolds, R.G., Niemiller, M.L. & Revell L.J. (2014). "Toward a tree-of-life for the boas and pythons: multilocus species-level phylogeny with unprecedented taxon sampling.". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 71: 201–213. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2013.11.011. PMID 24315866. 
  6. ^ Gotch AF. 1986. Reptiles – Their Latin Names Explained. Poole, UK: Blandford Press. ISBN 0-7137-1704-1.
  7. ^ Shine, R., Harlow, P. S., & Keogh, J. S. (1998). The influence of sex and body size on food habits of a giant tropical snake, Python reticulatus. Functional Ecology, 12(2), 248-258.
  8. ^ a b Wood, Gerald (1983). The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats. ISBN 978-0-85112-235-9. 
  9. ^ Fredriksson, G. M. (2005). "Predation on Sun Bears by Reticulated Python in East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo". Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. 53 (1): 165–168. 
  10. ^ a b c Barker, David G.; Barten, Stephen L.; Ehrsam, Jonas P.; Daddono, Louis (2012). "The Corrected Lengths of Two Well-known Giant Pythons and the Establishment of a new Maximum Length Record for Burmese Pythons, Python bivittatus" (PDF). Bull. Chicago Herp. Soc. 47 (1): 1–6. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Murphy, John C.; Henderson, Robert W. (1997). Tales of Giant Snakes: A Historical Natural History of Anacondas and Pythons. Krieger Pub. Co. pp. 24–26, 35, 47–50, 55–56. ISBN 0-89464-995-7. 
  12. ^ a b Mehrtens JM. 1987. Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. 480 pp. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X.
  13. ^ Boulenger, G.A. 1893. Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume I., Containing the Families...Boidæ... Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, Printers.) London. xiii + 448 pp. + Plates I.- XXVIII. (Python reticulatus, pp. 85-86.)
  14. ^ a b c d e f Auliya, M.; Mausfeld, P.; Schmitz, A.; Böhme, W. (2002-04-09). "Review of the reticulated python (Python reticulatus Schneider, 1801) with the description of new subspecies from Indonesia". Naturwissenschaften. 89 (5): 201–213. doi:10.1007/s00114-002-0320-4. Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
  15. ^ a b Stidworthy J. 1974. Snakes of the World. Grosset & Dunlap Inc. 160 pp. ISBN 0-448-11856-4.
  16. ^ Shine, R; Harlow, PS; Keogh, JS; Boeadi, NI. (1998). "The influence of sex and body size on food habits of a giant tropical snake, Python reticulatus". Functional Ecology. 12 (2): 248–258. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2435.1998.00179.x. 
  17. ^ Fredriksson, Gabriella M. (2005). "Predation on Sun Bears by Reticulated Python in East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo" (PDF). Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. 53 (1): 165–168. 
  18. ^ a b Headland, T. N.; Greene, H. W. (2011). "Hunter–gatherers and other primates as prey, predators, and competitors of snakes". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 108 (52): E1470. doi:10.1073/pnas.1115116108. 
  19. ^ Kopstein, F. (1927): Over het verslinden van menschen door Python reticulatus ["On the swallowing of humans by P. reticulatus"]. Tropische Natuur 4: 65–67. [Article in Dutch][verification needed]
  20. ^ Bruno, Silvio (1998): I serpenti giganti ["The giant snakes"]. Criptozoologia 4: 16–29. (in Italian)
  21. ^ Kobis I. 1995. Giant python killed after trying to swallow man. The Star (Malaysian English newspaper), 16 September 1995.
  22. ^ Woman killed by pet 13-foot python at UPI. Accessed 27 October 2008.
  23. ^ In Las Vegas, python vs. angry mom with a knife at Las Vegas Sun. Accessed 23 January 2009.
  24. ^ a b Mattison, Christopher (1999): Snake. DK Publishing. ISBN 0-7894-4660-X.
  25. ^ "Reticulated Python Care (Python reticulatus) – Eco Terrarium Supply". Retrieved 2009-02-06. 
  26. ^ "Reticulated Pythons - Boatips.com". Retrieved 2009-02-06. 
  27. ^ "Columbus Zoo Pays to Keep Largest Snake in Captivity on Permanent Display". Fox News. 14 January 2008. 
  28. ^ 22-Foot Python In Fla. Is World's Largest. Orlando News (2008-01-24)
  29. ^ Rimba Reptil ( Rimba Reptile Park ). Marriott.com. Retrieved on 2012-08-21.
  30. ^ ''New York Time'': Never Leather, Samantha The Python Dies at the Zoo. New York Times (2002-11-22). Retrieved on 2012-08-21.
  31. ^ China Daily: World's 'longest snake' comes up short
  32. ^ Aglionby, John (2004-01-05) Stay still, will you?. Guardian. Retrieved on 2012-08-21.
  33. ^ Hoser, Raymond (2004). "A Reclassification of the Pythoninae Including the Descriptions of Two New Genera, Two New Species, and Nine New Subspecies. Part II". Crocodilian. 4 (4): 21–40. 
  34. ^ Rawlings, L.H., Rabosky, D.L., Donnellan, S.C. & Hutchinson, M.N. (2008). "Python phylogenetics: inference from morphology and mitochondrial DNA". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 93 (3): 603. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.2007.00904.x. 
  35. ^ http://www.smuggled.com/issue-25-pages-14-38.pdf

Further reading[edit]

  • Auliya, M.A. (2003): Taxonomy, Life History and Conservation of Giant Reptiles in West Kalimantan. Ph.D. thesis, University of Bonn.
  • Auliya, M.A.; Mausfeld, P.; Schmitz, A. & Böhme, W. (2002): Review of the reticulated python (Python reticulatus Schneider, 1801 [sic]) with the description of new subspecies from Indonesia. Naturwissenschaften 89(5): 201–213. doi:10.1007/s00114-002-0320-4 (HTML abstract, electronic supplement available to subscribers)
  • Raven, H.C. (1946): Adventures in python country. Natural History 55: 38–41.
  • Schneider, J.G. 1801. Historiae Amphibiorum naturalis et literariae Fasciculus Secundus continens Crocodilos, Scincos, Chamaesauras, Boas, Pseudoboas, Elapes, Angues, Amphisbaenas et Caecilias. Frommann. Jena. vi + 364 pp. + 2 plates. ("[Boa] Reticulata", pp. 264–266.)
  • Shine R, Ambariyanto, Harlow PS, Mumpuni. Reticulated pythons in Sumatra: biology, harvesting and sustainability. Biol. conserv. ISSN 0006-3207. Abstract at CAT.INIST. Accessed 12 September 2007.

External links[edit]