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Pythons: Pythonidae

Physical Characteristics

Some of the largest snakes in the world are pythons. One, the reticulated python, even holds the world's record for the longest wild snake at 33 feet (10.1 meters). That particular snake was killed in 1912 in Sulawesi, also known as Celebes, in Indonesia. Besides the reticulated python, however, only two other pythons grow to be longer than 20 feet (6.1 meters). In fact, the pygmy pythons of Australia are less than 2 feet (61 centimeters) long when full grown.

Pythons look much like boas. They both have cat's-eye pupils and little claw-like bits of bone, known as spurs, on each side of the vent, which is the slitlike opening on the belly side of the snake. They both also have heat vision and can "see" heat with little pits on the scales of their lips. Pythons and boas differ, however, in the location of these pits. In boas, they fall between scales, but a python's pits are in the middle of the scales. Both use the heat sensors to help them locate prey or food animals. Another major difference between the pythons and boas is that all pythons lay eggs, while all but three species of boas give birth to baby snakes.

Some pythons are almost completely one color, but many have patterns of blotches or bands on their backs. Often, the snake's scales are iridescent (IH-rih-DEH-sent), which means that they shine different colors depending on how the light hits them. A number of these snakes, including the Papuan python, can actually change color. This species can switch from having a bright yellow body and light gray head to completely dark brown from head to tail.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesPythons: Pythonidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Black-headed Python (aspidites Melanocephalus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, PYTHONS AND PEOPLE