Encyclopedia > Pythonidae

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Pythonidae is a family of constricting snakes, sometimes classified as an subfamily of the boas, Boidae. Pythons are found in Australasia, Southeast Asia, India, and Africa. They range in size between 0.5 and 10 m. Some show vivid patterns on their scales while others are a nondescript brown.

Pythonidae consists of seven (I think) genera, including:

  • Antaresia (Anthill, Children's and Spotted Pythons)
  • Aspidites (Black-headed Pythons and Womas)
  • Bothrochilus (Ringed Python)
  • Leiopython (White-lipped Python)
  • Liasis (Macklot's and Water Pythons)
  • Morelia (Amethystine or Scrub, Carpet and Green Tree Pythons; the latter were formerly in their own genus, Chondropython)
  • Python (Angolan, Ball, Blood, Burmese, Indian, Reticulated and Timor Pythons)


Pythons lay eggs which they arrange in a pile. They coil around the pile until all eggs have hatched. Since pythons cannot regulate their internal body temperature, they cannot incubate their eggs per se; instead, they raise the temperature of their eggs by small movements of their body -- essentially, they "shiver". This is one of only a few documented cases of parental behaviour in snakes.

Predatory characteristics and behaviour

Most pythons have heat-sensing organs in their lips. These enable them to detect objects that are hotter than the surrounding environment. Pythons that do not have heat-sensing organs identify their prey by smell. Pythons are ambush predators: they typically stay in a camouflaged position and then suddenly strike at passing prey. They then grasp the prey in their teeth, and kill by constriction. Death is usually a result of suffocation or heart failure rather than crushing. Pythons will not usually attack humans unless startled or provoked.

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