Temporal range: Pleistocene to recent
The reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus) is a
It is an excellent swimmer, has been reported far out at sea, and has colonized many small islands within its range.
Like all pythons, it is a non-venomous constrictor. Adult humans have been killed (and in at least two reported cases, eaten) by reticulated pythons.
The reticulated python was first described in 1801 by German naturalist
In a 2004 genetics study using cytochrome b DNA, Robin Lawson and colleagues discovered the reticulated python as sister to Australo-Papuan pythons, rather than Python molurus and relatives. Raymond Hoser erected the genus Broghammerus for the reticulated python in 2004, naming it after German snake expert Stefan Broghammer, on the basis of dorsal patterns distinct from those of the genus Python, and a dark mid-dorsal line from the rear to the front of the head, and red or orange (rather than brown) iris colour. In 2008, Lesley H. Rawlings and colleagues reanalysed Kluge's morphological data and combined it with genetic material, finding the reticulated clade to be an offshoot of the Australo-Papuan lineage as well. They adopted and redefined the genus name Broghammerus.
However, this and numerous other names by the same author were criticized by several authors, who proposed ignoring them for the purposes of nomenclature despite this being contrary to the ICZN Code that underpins binomial nomenclature, ostensibly promoting the establishment of a dual nomenclature.
Three subspecies have been proposed:
- M. r. reticulatus (Schneider, 1801) – Asiatic reticulated python
- M. r. jampeanus Lesser Sundas.
- M. r. saputrai Auliya et al., 2002 – Selayer reticulated python, occurs on Selayar Island in the Selayar Archipelago and also in adjacent Sulawesi. This subspecies represents a sister lineage to all other populations of reticulated pythons tested. According to Auliya et al. (2002) it does not exceed 4 m (13 ft 1 in) in length.
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.
The proposed subspecies M. r. "dalegibbonsi", M. r. "euanedwardsi", M. r. "haydnmacphiei", M. r. "neilsonnemani", M. r. "patrickcouperi", and M. r. "stuartbigmorei" have not found general acceptance.
The reticulated python has smooth
The reticulated python is the largest snake native to Asia. More than a thousand wild reticulated pythons in southern
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
|Date||Location||Reported length||Reported weight||Reported girth||Scientifically analyzed length||Comments|
|October, 1859||Bayam Lepas, Philippines||853.4 cm (336.0 in)||Not listed||81.28 cm (32.00 in)||Not listed||Discovered eating a pig on the road to Telo Kumbar and killed|
|1912||Celeb Island[clarification needed]||998.2 cm (393.0 in)||Not listed||30.48 cm (12.00 in)||Not listed||Reported to have been shot near a mining camp. Account given by explorer Henry C Raven. One photo was taken, but the body was not preserved.|
|1931–1948||Evansville, Indiana, United States||1,023.62 cm (403.00 in)||303.907 kg (670.00 lb)||Not listed||Not listed||Kept at Meaker Zoo between 1931 and 1948. Exceptional weight claim believed to be in error.|
|1992||Borneo||792.48 cm (312.00 in)||124.738 kg (275.00 lb)||Not listed||792.48 cm (312.00 in)||Captured alive in Borneo in 1992 and put on exhibit|
better source needed]
|2011||Kansas City, Missouri, United States||767 cm (302 in)||158.8 kg (350 lb)||Named "Medusa"; considered by the |
Guinness Book of World Records to be the longest (verified) living snake ever kept in captivity
The colour pattern is a complex geometric pattern that incorporates different colours. 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, colour, and markings commonly occurs.
In zoo exhibits, the colour pattern may seem garish, but in a shadowy jungle environment amid fallen leaves and debris, it allows them to virtually disappear. Called
The huge size and attractive pattern of this snake has made it a favorite zoo exhibit, 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. However, due to its 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 of a living reticulated python, and weights are rarely indicative, as captive pythons are often obese. Claims made by zoos and animal parks are sometimes exaggerated, such as the claimed 14.85 m (48 ft 9 in) snake in Indonesia which was subsequently proven to be about 6.5–7 m (21 ft 4 in – 23 ft 0 in) long. For this reason, scientists do not accept the validity of length measurements unless performed on a dead or anesthetized snake that is later preserved in a museum collection or stored for scientific research.
A reticulated python kept in the
In 2012, an albino reticulated python, named "Twinkie", housed in
Dwarf forms of reticulated pythons also occur, from some islands northwest of Australia, and these are being selectively bred in captivity to be much smaller, resulting in animals often referred to as "super dwarfs". Adult super dwarf reticulated pythons are typically between 1.82 and 2.4 m (6 ft 0 in and 7 ft 10 in) in length.
Distribution and habitat
The reticulated python is found in
Three subspecies have been proposed, but are not recognized in the Integrated Taxonomic Information System. 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.
The reticulated python lives in rainforests, 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. 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.
Behaviour and ecology
As with all pythons, the reticulated python is an ambush predator, usually waiting until prey wanders within strike range before seizing it in its coils and killing by constriction. Its natural diet includes mammals and occasionally birds. Small specimens up to 3–4 m (9 ft 10 in – 13 ft 1 in) long eat mainly small mammals such as rats, other rodents, mouse-eared bats, and treeshrews, whereas larger individuals switch to prey such as small Indian civet and binturong, primates, pigs, and deer weighing more than 60 kg (132 lb 4 oz). As a rule, the reticulated python seems able to swallow prey up to one-quarter its own length and up to its own weight. Near human habitation, it is known to snatch stray chickens, cats, and dogs on occasion. Among the largest documented prey items are a half-starved sun bear of 23 kg (50 lb 11 oz) that was eaten by a 6.95 m (22 ft 10 in) specimen and took some 10 weeks to digest. At least one case is reported of a foraging python entering a forest hut and taking a child.
The reticulated python is
Danger to humans
The reticulated python is among the few snakes that prey on humans. On April 9, 2015, the species was added to the
- A report of a visit of Antonio van Diemen, Governor-General of the Dutch East India Company, to the Banda Islands in 1638, includes a description of an enslaved woman who, when tending to a garden on the volcanic island of Gunung Api, was strangled by a snake of "24 houtvoeten" (slightly over seven meters) in length, and then swallowed whole. The snake, having become slow after ingesting such a large prey, was subsequently shot by Dutch soldiers and brought to the Governor-General to be looked at, with its victim still inside. Although the species was not named, the only snake found in Banda matching this description is the reticulated python.
- In early 20th-century Indonesia: On Salibabu island, North Sulawesi, a 14-year-old boy was killed and supposedly eaten by a specimen 5.17 m (17 ft 0 in) in length. Another incident involved a woman reputedly eaten by a "large reticulated python", but few details are known.
- In the early 1910s or in 1927, a jeweller went hunting with his friends and was apparently eaten by a 6 m (19 ft 8 in) python after he sought shelter from a rainstorm in or under a tree. Supposedly, he was swallowed feet-first, perhaps the easiest way for a snake to actually swallow a human.
- In 1932, Frank Buck wrote about a teenaged 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.
- Among a small group of negritos in the Philippines, six deaths by pythons were said to have been documented within a period of 40 years, plus one who died later of an infected bite.
- In September 1995, 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 pounds (136 kg), was killed soon after by the arriving police, who shot it four times.
- In October 2008, a 25-year-old woman 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.
- In January 2009, a 3-year-old boy was wrapped in the coils of a 18 ft (5.5 m) pet reticulated python, turning blue. The boy's mother, who had been petsitting 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.
- In December 2013, a 59-year-old security guard was strangled to death while trying to capture a python near the Bali Hyatt, a luxury hotel on Indonesia's resort island. The incident happened around 3 am as the 4.5-m (15-ft) python was crossing a road near the hotel. The victim had offered to help capture the snake, which had been spotted several times before near the hotel in the Sanur, Bali, area and escaped back into nearby bushes.
- In March 2017, the body of Akbar Salubiro, a 25-year-old farmer in Central Mamuju Regency, West Sulawesi, Indonesia, was found inside the stomach of a 7 m (23 ft 0 in) reticulated python. He had been declared missing from his palm tree plantation, and the people searching for him found the python the next day with a large bulge in its stomach. They killed the python and found the whole body of the missing farmer inside. This was the first fully confirmed case of a person being eaten by a python. The process of retrieving the body from the python's stomach was documented by pictures and videos taken by witnesses.
- In June 2018, a 54-year-old Indonesian woman in Muna Island, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia, was killed and eaten by a 23-foot (7 m) python. The woman went missing one night while working in her garden, and the next day, a search party was organized after some of her belongings were found abandoned in the garden. The python was found near the garden with a large bulge in its body. The snake was killed and carried into town, where it was cut open, revealing the woman's body completely intact.
- In June 2020, a 16-year-old Indonesian boy was attacked and killed by a 7 m (23 ft 0 in) long python in Bombana Regency, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. The incident took place near a waterfall at Mount Kahar in Rumbia sub-district. The victim was separated from his four friends in the woods. When he screamed, his friends came to help and found him encoiled by a large python. Villagers came to help and managed to kill the snake using a parang machete. However, the victim had already suffocated.
- In October 2022, a 52-year-old woman in Terjun Gajah village, Betara Subdistrict, West Tanjung Jabung Regency, Jambi, Indonesia, was killed and swallowed whole by a 6-metre (19 ft 8 in) reticulated python. She went to tap rubber sap on 23 October 2022 and did not return home after sunset. After she was reported missing for a day and a night, a search party discovered a large python with a bulge in its body in a jungle near the rubber plantation. The villagers immediately killed and dissected the python and discovered the intact body of the missing woman inside. Villagers were alarmed, fearing more large pythons might be lurking in the rubber plantation, because farmers previously had reported two goats missing.
Increased popularity of the reticulated python in the pet trade is due largely to increased efforts in captive breeding and selectively bred mutations such as the "albino" and "tiger" strains. It can make a good captive, but keepers should have previous experience with large constrictors to ensure safety to both animal and keeper. Although its interactivity and beauty draws much attention, some feel it is unpredictable. It does not attack humans by nature, but will bite and possibly constrict if it feels threatened, or mistakes a hand for food. While not venomous, large pythons can inflict serious injuries by biting, sometimes requiring stitches.
In popular culture
In Moonraker (1979), a reticulated python tries to suffocate James Bond (Roger Moore), but Bond kills the snake with a hypodermic pen.
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- 25 ft World's Longest Snake
- Python swallows Indonesian man whole Fox News
- IUCN Red List least concern species
- Apex predators
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- Fauna of the Lesser Sunda Islands
- Reptiles described in 1801
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- Taxa named by Johann Gottlob Theaenus Schneider