Burmese Python


Indian pythons are divided into two subspecies, which can be distinguished by physical characteristics.  Burmese pythons, P. molurus bivitatus, have been know to reach lengths over 20 feet and weight over 200 lbs.  However, Indian pythons, P. molurus molurus, are generally smaller.  The hides of both subspecies are marked with a rectangular mosaic type pattern that runs the length of the snake.  P. molurus bivitatus is more darkly colored, with shades of brown and dark cream rectangles that lay over a black background.  This subspecies is also characterized by an arrow-shaped marking on the top of the head, which begins the pattern.  P. molurus molurus has similar markings with light brown and tan rectangles placed over a typically cream background.  P. molurus molurus only has a partial arrow-shaped marking on the top of the head.  Indian pythons are dimorphic with females of both subspecies being longer and heavier than males.  Males have larger cloacal spurs, or vestigial limbs, than do females.  The cloacal spurs are two projections, one on either side of the anal vent, that are thought to be extensions of posterior limbs.



Where in the world are Burmese pythons found?

P. molurus bivitatus (the Burmese python), ranges from Myanmar eastward across southern Asia through China and Indonesia.  It is not present on the island of Sumatra.  Introduced individuals have been sighted in the Florida Everglades.



What type of habitat do Burmese pythons prefer?

Burmese pythons are found in a variety of habitats including rainforests, river valleys, woodlands, scrublands, grassy marshes, and semi rocky foothills.  They are usually found in habitats with areas that can provide sufficient cover.  This species is never found very far from water sources, and seems to prefer very damp terrain.



What do Burmese pythons eat?

Python molurus is carnivorous.  Its diet consists mostly of mammals.  A small portion of its diet consists of birds, amphibians, and other reptiles.  When looking for food P. molurus will either stalk prey, ambush, or scavenge for carrion.  These snakes have very poor eyesight, but to compensate for this, they have a highly developed sense of smell, and heat pits within each scale along the upper lip, that sense the warmth of nearby prey.  These pythons kill by biting and constricting their prey until it succumbs.  Prey items are then swallowed whole.  Like all snakes, P. moluruso can sometimes swallow very large prey because of its highly elastic skin that allows it to stretch its jaws around the prey. This allows these snakes to swallow food items many times larger than their own heads.



How big are Burmese pythons?

Burmese pythons have occasionally been known to reach lengths of over 20 feet and weigh over 200 pounds.



What is the development of Burmese pythons like?

Young Python molurus are precocial, and can therefore survive on their own when they hatch and become independent soon after hatching.  They are sexually mature between 2-3 years of age provided the proper body weight is met.



How does reproduction occur with Burmese pythons?

During courtship, the male wraps his body around the female and repeatedly flicks his tongue across her head and body.  Copulation lasts between 5-30 minutes.  Approximately 3-4 months after copulation, the female will lay up to 100 eggs.  To protect her eggs the female coils around them for an incubation period that lasts between 2-3 months.  During incubation female Python molurus use muscular contractions or “shivers” to raise their body temperatures just slightly higher than the surrounding air temperature.  It is extremely uncommon for a mother to leave the eggs during the incubation period.  Once the eggs hatch, the young quickly become independent.



How do Burmese pythons behave?

Python molurus is a solitary species and mating is the only time that these snakes are commonly found in pairs.  Indian pythons will generally move only when food is scarce or when threatened.  They may stalk prey by locating it by scent or by sensing the body heat of the prey with their heat pits, and then following the trail.  These snakes are primarily found on the ground, but will sometimes climb trees.  Indian pythons are also often found in or near water.  Like all snakes, they are excellent swimmers, and can stay submerged without breathing for up to thirty minutes at a time.  During colder months, between October and February, Indian pythons stay hidden and will usually enter a brief period of hibernation until the temperature rises again.



What types of communication and perception do Burmese pythons use?

Like all snakes, chemoreception is important for finding prey, and generally perceiving the environment.  Also, Python molurus has heat-sensing pits along its lips that allow it to detect endothermic (warm blooded) prey.   Python molurus has poor eyesight.



What role do Burmese pythons play in their ecosystem?

Python molurus eats many rodents as well as a variety of vertebrates.  It may be important in controlling populations of certain prey species.



What is the conservation status of Burmese pythons?

IUCN Red List:  Lower risk.

US Federal List:  Endangered.

CITES:  Appendix I.

Python molurus is IUCN listed as a lower risk, near threatened, indicating that although the species is close to being vulnerable, it does not meet any of the indications to consider it vulnerable as yet.


Since June 14, 1976, P. molurus has been listed by the U.S. ESA as endangered in its entire range.


The subspecies P. molurus molurus is listed as endangered and listed in Appendix I of CITES.




2006/12/10 04:51:20.851 US/Eastern

Padgett, J. 2003. “Python molurus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 10, 2006 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Python_molurus.html.























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