Indian Pythons



Throughout history, humans have regarded snakes with both fascination and horror.

In many cultures, snakes have been symbols of evil, from the Biblical serpent in the Garden of Eden to the snake demons of Indian mythology. To the ancient Egyptians the emblem of judgment and death was a snake.

Snakes are found in most habitats worldwide except in extreme northern and southern regions. Snakes come in multitudes of sizes and colors with as many varied lifestyles, from deadly King cobras whose bite can kill a human in 15 minutes, to the world’s tiniest West Indies thread snakes, about the size of a pencil lead.

Snakes are reptiles, the group of animals that also includes crocodiles, lizards, and turtles. The now-legless snakes evolved millions of years ago from prehistoric lizards that lived at the same time as the dinosaurs. Pythons are the most ancient type of snake; they have remnant spurs, tiny projections where their ancestors might once have had legs.

Species Description and Natural History

The Indian python is a highly arboreal snake, once fairly common throughout the jungles of India, Sri Lanka, and the East Indies. It can grow to a length of about 20 feet (6 m).

Like the boas and anacondas of the Americas, the python is a constrictor, a snake that kills its prey by squeezing. Mammals are preferred prey, but pythons will also eat birds, other animals, even fish (pythons often live near water and are good swimmers).

Pythons drape across tree branches, camouflaged by their light and dark patterned skin, waiting to ambush their next meal. They grab their prey with a quick lashing out of the head, then wrap themselves around the prey so it cannot breathe. A large python could squeeze the life out of a deer, and amazingly enough, the python could then swallow it whole.

After such a big meal, the snake may not have to eat again for as long as a year! There are very few authenticated accounts of humans being attacked by pythons, though it certainly is possible since the largest python recorded was over 32 feet (9.8 m) long.

A python may live more than 20 years. They are solitary creatures, but males and females seek each other out to mate. The female coils about her eggs to incubate them. Young pythons have many natural enemies, including eagles, crocodiles, large cats such as leopards and tigers, and hyenas.

Snakes are important in controlling pest species, such as rodents, rabbits, and insects. In some areas where humans have eradicated snakes, mice and rodents that carry disease have become serious threats to human health.

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