Physical characteristics

While pythons are widely known for their great size, only three of the 32 species exceed 20 ft (6.1 m) in length. The smallest of the three is the Indian python, Python molurus, with records of wild specimens ranging from 19 to 22 ft (5.8 to 6.7 m). As of 2002, there were numerous living captive specimens that are purported to exceed 22 ft (6.7 m) and 300 lb (136 kg). Records for the African rock python, Python sebae, range from 28 to 32 ft (8.5 to 9.8 m). The most commonly cited maximum length for any snake is 33 ft (10.1 m); that length is based on a reticulated python P. reticulatus killed in Sulawesi in 1912. The largest snake ever kept in captivity was a reticulated python named Colossus, kept at the Pittsburgh Zoo from 1949 until 1956; that snake was measured reliably as 28 ft (8.5 m), 6 in (15 cm) and weighed 320 lb (145 kg).

Most pythons are cryptically patterned with blotches, bands, or rings. About one third of the species are patternless, nearly patternless, or have a patternless appearance. Most species undergo a color change as they mature. Many pythons have the ability to change color to a slight degree, but three taxa, More-lia oenpelliensis, Morelia carinata, and Apodora papuana, can change the hue and intensity of their color dramatically and exhibit about the highest development of this ability among all snakes. Many pythons display iridescent colors that reflect off their skins. The ringed python (Bothrochilus boa), the white-lipped python (Leiopython albertisii), and the black python (Morelia boe-leni) are among the most iridescent snakes in the world.

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