AppearanceBurmese pythons are dark-colored snakes with many brown blotches bordered in black down the back. The perceived attractiveness of their skin pattern contributes to their popularity with both reptile keepers and the leather industry. The pattern is similar in colour, but different in actual pattern from the African rock python , sometimes resulting in confusion of the two species outside of their natural habitats. The African rock python can generally be distinguished by its tighter pattern of markings, compared to the Burmese python, which has bolder patterns, similar to those seen on a giraffe.
In the wild, Burmese pythons grow to 3.7 metres on average, while specimens of more than 4 metres are uncommon. In general, individuals over 5 metres are rare. The record maximum length for Burmese Pythons is held by a female named “Baby”, that lived at Serpent Safari, Gurnee, Illinois, for 27 years. Shortly after death, her actual length was determined to be 5.74 metres . Widely published data of specimens that were reported to have been even several feet longer are not verified. There are dwarf forms on Java, Bali and Sulawesi. On Bali they reach an average length of 2 metres , and on Sulawesi they achieve a maximum of 2.5 metres .
NamingPython invasion has been particularly extensive in South Florida, where a large number of pythons have made their way to the Everglades. It has been suggested that the current number of Burmese pythons in the Florida everglades has reached a minimum viable population and become an invasive species. Over 1330 have been captured in the Everglades.
A paper published by the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggested that bird and coyote populations are threatened, as well as already-rare rival predatory species, such as Florida panthers.
Florida's Hurricane Andrew was deemed responsible for the destruction of a python breeding facility as well as with possible zoo, warehouse, and household escapees.
By 2007, the Burmese python was already established in Northern Florida, in the coastal areas of the Florida Panhandle . In February 2008, USGS scientists published a projected range map for the US, based on average climate data of the snake's home range and global warming projections, which predicted that by the end of the 21st century these snakes could migrate to and flourish in as much as a third of the continental United States, including all three coasts. However, a subsequent study produced a map incorporating both climatic extremes and averages which projected that the Burmese python's range as limited to Southern Florida. Also, this projection was criticized in an unsigned Axcess News article as not having been peer-reviewed. Burmese pythons kept throughout winter in an experimental enclosure in South Carolina all died during the study, apparently because they could not properly acclimate to the cold, but most survived extended periods at temperatures below those typical of southern Florida.
Recently published in Integrative Zoology the study ‘Environmental, physiology and behavior limit the range expansion of invasive Burmese pythons in southeastern USA’ contradicts the initial USGS study which claimed that non-native Burmese Pythons could expand as far north as the southern one third of the United States. Jacobson et al. along with three other cold climate studies, provide a combined claim that the Burmese Python will remain in the Everglades. Furthermore, other reputable herpetologists have commented on the controversial theory positing future migration past the Florida Everglades:
The National Geographic Society's Resident Herpetologist, Dr. Brady Barr, said "Climate data reveal that temperatures found in southern Florida simply are not conducive to the long term survival of large tropical snakes. When it gets cold, these snakes die." Dr. Barr also said "Feral Hogs are a bigger problem for the Everglades than pythons. The press has sensationalized this story to the point that people think the sky is falling. Hopefully comprehensive research such as Jacobson et al. will put an end to the hysteria."
StatusWild populations are considered to be "threatened" and are listed on Appendix II of CITES. All the giant pythons have historically been slaughtered to supply the world leather market, as well as for folk medicines, and captured for the pet trade. Some are also killed for food, particularly in China.
IUCN has recently listed the Burmese python as "Vulnerable", reflecting its overall population decline. Important reasons for the decline are trade for skins and for food; habitat degradation may be a problem in some upland areas.
In Hong Kong, it is a protected species under Wild Animals Protection Ordinance Cap 170.
BehaviorBurmese pythons are mainly nocturnal rainforest dwellers. When younger they are equally at home on the ground and in trees, but as they gain girth they tend to restrict most of their movements to the ground. They are also excellent swimmers, being able to stay submerged for up to half an hour. Burmese pythons spend the majority of their time hidden in the underbrush. In the northern parts of its range, the Indian python may brumate for some months during the cold season in a hollow tree, a hole in the riverbank or under rocks. Brumation...hieroglyph snipped... is biologically distinct from hibernation. While the behaviour has similar benefits, specifically to endure the winter without moving, it also involves preparation of both male and female reproductive organs for the upcoming breeding season. There is controversy over whether the Burmese species is able to brumate.
Burmese pythons breed in the early spring, with females laying clutches which average 12–36 eggs in March or April. She will remain with the eggs until they hatch, wrapping around them and twitching her muscles in such a way as to raise the ambient temperature around the eggs by several degrees. Once the hatchlings use their egg tooth to cut their way out of their eggs, there is no further maternal care. The newly hatched will often remain inside their egg until they are ready to complete their first shedding of skin, after which they hunt for their first meal.
HabitatBurmese pythons are found throughout Southern- and Southeast Asia, including Eastern India, Nepal, western Bhutan, southeastern Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, northern continental Malaysia, far southern China , Hong Kong, and in Indonesia on Java, southern Sulawesi, Bali and Sumbawa. Burmese Pythons are also reported from Kinmen, very close to the Chinese mainland but in Taiwanese territory; Burmese Python belongs to the fauna of Taiwan when ''Taiwan'' refers to the Republic of China, but not to the island of Taiwan.
This python is an excellent swimmer and needs a permanent source of water. It can be found in grasslands, marshes, swamps, rocky foothills, woodlands, river valleys, and jungles with open clearings. They are good climbers and have prehensile tails.
FoodLike all snakes, Burmese pythons are carnivorous. Their diet consists primarily of appropriately sized birds and mammals. The snake uses its sharp rearward-pointing teeth to seize its prey, then wraps its body around the prey, at the same time contracting its muscles, killing the prey by constriction. They are often found near human habitation due to the presence of rats, mice and other vermin as a food source. However, their equal affinity for domesticated birds and mammals means that they are often treated as pests. In captivity their diet consists primarily of commercially available, appropriately sized rats, graduating to larger prey such as rabbits and poultry as they grow. Exceptionally large pythons may even require larger food items such as pigs or goats, and are known to have attacked and eaten alligators and adult deer in Florida, where they are an invasive species.
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