Papuan python

Apodora papuana

TAXONOMY

Apodora papuana Peters and Doria, 1878, Ramoi, Sorong Peninsula, Irian Jaya, Indonesia.

OTHER COMMON NAMES English: New Guinea olive python.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This is a large, elongate, athletic python with a large head,

large eyes, and a long, deeply forked tongue. The lining of the mouth is dark. Adults are 10-14 ft (3-4.3 m) in length. This is the largest New Guinea python, with a record size of 16 ft (4.9 m), 10 in (25 cm).

DISTRIBUTION

The species is found throughout the lower elevations of New Guinea and on nearby islands, including Misool, Biak, and Fer-gusson.

HABITAT

The Papuan python is widespread through a variety of habitats but is associated strongly with river gallery forest.

BEHAVIOR

Papuan pythons have a remarkable ability to change color; their heads turn from pale gray to dark brown and their bodies from mustard yellow to dark brown.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

They are recorded to eat a wide variety of vertebrates, including snakes, wallabies, flying fox, bandicoots, and rodents.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

A Papuan python usually becomes sexually mature in its fifth or sixth year. Females have a larger average size than males. The eggs of this species measure about 4 in (11 cm) in length. Clutch size ranges up to 28 eggs. Hatchlings are about 24 in (61 cm) in length. Babies are darker in color than adults.

CONSERVATION STATUS

This python is rarely encountered; nothing is known about its status in the wild.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

The Papuan python is largely undisturbed by humans. Some indigenous cultures do hunt the species for its meat and skin. ♦

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Lizards and snakes make up most of the natural diet of this species, including venomous snakes. Mammals and birds occasionally are taken.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

A black-headed python usually becomes sexually mature in its forth or fifth year. Females are usually larger than males, but some older males do attain similar size. The eggs of this species measure about 3.5 in (8.9 cm) in length. Clutch size ranges up to 18 eggs. Hatchlings are about 24 in (61 cm) in length. Babies have brighter colors and a more contrasting pattern than adults.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Little is known about the status of wild populations, but the species has a large range, most of it unoccupied and unmodified by humans.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

The species exists largely unseen and undisturbed by humans. The common knowledge that this python species eats venomous snakes does afford it some protection when it encounters people. ♦

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