Ball python

Python regius

TAXONOMY

Python regius Shaw, 1802, no type locality specified. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Royal python, West African python; French: Python royal; German: Konigspython.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This is a small, heavy-bodied species with a slender neck and large head. Most adults measure 3.5-5 ft (1.1-1.5 m). The maximum length approaches 6.5 ft (2 m).

DISTRIBUTION

Ball pythons are found in sub-Saharan central Africa, from Senegal to Liberia and east through Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad to Sudan and Uganda.

HABITAT

They are most commonly found in grasslands, savannas, open woodlands, and agricultural areas. Ball pythons often shelter in rodent burrows.

BEHAVIOR

Ball pythons are named for their defensive behavior of coiling into a ball, protecting the head in the center of the coils.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

At all ages, this species feeds predominantly on rodents.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

A ball python female usually becomes sexually mature in its third year; males have been know to successfully breed at less than a year of age. Females are generally larger than males. The eggs of this species measure about 3.5 in (8.9 cm) in length. Clutch size ranges up to 16 eggs. Hatchlings are about 16 in (41 cm) in length. Babies are similar to adults in color and pattern.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened. There is anecdotal evidence that ball python populations have benefited from the loss of forest that has occurred throughout their distribution.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

This is the most common python in captivity. About one million live specimens were exported to captivity in the 1990s. They breed readily in captivity. This species holds the longevity record for all snakes, based on a specimen in the Philadelphia Zoo that was captive for more than 49 years. ♦

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