Python reticulatusReticulated Python

Geographic Range

Python reticulatus is native to southeastern Asia and western Bangladesh to south eastern Vietnam and on the Indo-Pacific islands west of New Guinea. Other reports have shown the presence of reticulated pythons in eastern parts of Sudan Africa and northern parts of Queensland and Northern Territory in Australia. Some reticulated pythons have been introduced in southern Florida, a direct result of the negative effects of pet importation. (Kluge, 1993; Kluge, 1993; Seigel and Collins, 2001; Willson and Dorcas, 2011; Wright and Wright, 1957)


Python reticulatus dominantly inhabits tropical rainforests, wetlands, and grassland forests, at elevations of 1200-2500m. The temperature necessary for proper gestation and survival of the reticulated python must be between ≈24º C and ≈34º C with large amounts of moisture present. Python reticulatus requires an area near a body of water for protection as well as predation success. Pythons use the water as a protective camouflage to hide before ambushing prey. Similar behavior is noticeable in wetlands where reticulated pythons are able to hide under brush in order to ambush their prey. (Grace, et al., 1999; Willson and Dorcas, 2011)

  • Range elevation
    1200 to 2500 m
    3937.01 to 8202.10 ft

Physical Description

The average body length and average body mass of the reticulated python is 4.78m and 170 kg, respectively. Some individuals have reached lengths of 9.0m and weights of 270 kg. Python reticulatus is light yellowish to brown on the dorsal portion of their bodies with black lines extending from the ventral area of the eyes diagonally down towards the snout. Another black line is sometimes present on the head of the snake extending from the end of the snout to the base of the skull or nape. Along the back of the reticulated python is a repeated pattern of black X's creating diamond-like patterns. Younger pythons have been reported having latitudinal lines with black-edged spots across their bodies.

A way of distinguishing Python reticulatus from similar species is to examine the upper jaw near the front of the snout. The reticulated python has the presence of a suborbital portion of the maxilla (upper jaw) that lacks a lateral or protruding figure.

Generally this species has shown that females grow much larger than males in respect to size and weight. The average female can grow up to 6.09m and 90 kg in contrast to the male which averages about 4.5m long and up to 45 kg. (Kluge, 1993; Seigel and Collins, 2001; Willson and Dorcas, 2011)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass
    100 to 270 kg
    220.26 to 594.71 lb
  • Average mass
    150 kg
    330.40 lb
  • Range length
    1.6 to 9.0 m
    5.25 to 29.53 ft
  • Average length
    3.1 m
    10.17 ft
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    2.7349 W


After laying eggs, the female python incubates them in a nest for roughly 90 days until they are ready to hatch. Newly hatched reticulated pythons use a specialized feature called an egg tooth, which is located on the upper-lip, to open the eggshell. The hatchlings are roughly 60 cm in length and weigh around 140 grams. Immediately after hatching, the python will shed its skin. Then it will begin hiding and waiting for rodents and small birds to prey on. (Mullin and Seigel, 2009; Seigel and Collins, 2001; Shine, et al., 1998)


The reticulated python male uses vibrations to signal his mating status to the female, who will choose whether to mate or not. If she decides to mate, the reticulated python male will rub his body on top of the female and rub her with his spurs. Spurs are vestigial hind limbs which are located on his abdomen. When the female is ready she will lift her tail and mating will take place. A female python can keep the male's sperm inside of her until a later date, if climate conditions are not favorable. Females may also have several male counterparts mate with them in a single season.

Although uncommon, parthenogenesis has been documented in captive pythons. Parthenogenesis is the process of mating without a male. The female will fertilize an egg within herself, creating offspring with identical DNA. This is an adaptation to reproduce even when males are not present. (Mullin and Seigel, 2009; Seigel and Collins, 2001; Willson and Dorcas, 2011)

The breeding season for the reticulated python is said to be concentrated in the months of February and March. Shortly after the winter pythons begin preparing for breeding because of the increase in temperature and promising warmth of the summer. In most areas it is geographical dependent because of the need for warmer climates. Thus, pythons reproduce depending on the climate change of the specific area being inhabited.

The breeding area inhabited needs to be rich in prey in order for the female to produce offspring. Consequently, reticulated pythons require an area usually undeveloped and uninhabited to maintain high reproductive output. The viability of the eggs depends on the mother's ability to protect and incubate them, as well as high levels of humidity. Adult pythons are usually ready to reproduce once the male has reached around 2.5 meters in length and around 3.0 meters in length for the females. This is in the range of 3-5 years for both sexes.

If food is abundant the reticulated python female can have up to a clutch a year. In areas and seasons when food is not so plentiful, the clutch size and frequency is said to be one clutch every 2 to 3 years. The reticulated python reproduces more frequently in areas of higher temperature for better gestation. In a breeding year, a single female can produce 8-107 eggs, but the number is typically 25-50 eggs. average birth mass is 0.15g (range 0.12-0.17 g). Independence is immediate for hatchlings. (Mullin and Seigel, 2009)

  • Breeding interval
    Every 1-3 years
  • Breeding season
  • Range number of offspring
    8 to 107
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    60 to 90 days
  • Average gestation period
    70 days
  • Range time to independence
    0 to 2 minutes
  • Average time to independence
    0 minutes
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3.5 to 5 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    4 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3.0 to 5 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3.5 years

Like most pythons, Python reticulatus is oviparous meaning it lays eggs to reproduce. Unlike most species, the reticulated python female remains coiled above the incubating eggs in order to provide warmth. Through a process of muscle contractions called "shivering thermogenesis", a female reticulated python can warm up the eggs beneath them causing an increase in the rate of incubation and chances of survival. With nearly no parental affiliation after birth, it is the newly hatched python's responsibility for food and protection. (Seigel and Collins, 2001; Willson and Dorcas, 2011)


The reticulated python is rarely in captivity and more commonly found in the wild. Its large size makes it difficult to provide an area large enough to support a healthy captive python. However, on average the reticulated python lives longer in captivity because its environment and food sources are well maintained in a controlled area.

The longest known lifespan of a reticulated python in captivity is 32 years. In contrast, wild reticulated pythons may have difficulty finding proper food sources and environmental protection which may explain why a wild reticulated python's lifespan is shorter than those in captivity. The longest lifespan of a wild reticulated python is 23 years in comparison to 32 years in captivity. (Grace, et al., 1999; Mullin and Seigel, 2009; Wright and Wright, 1957)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    23 (high) years
  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    32 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    15 to 22 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    20 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    18 to 27 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    23 years


Python reticulatus is known to occupy areas which tend to have a source of water present or nearby. This allows for better movement because of its large size. Through the process of lateral progression, a snake is able to contract muscles and release muscles simultaneously to create the serpentine pattern most commonly recognized. Due to the reticulated pythons great size rectilinear movement, a type of movement where the snake contracts its body and then unfolds in a linear motion, is more commonly observed because it allows for greater size to move more swiftly. Using the technique of constriction and unfolding a python can climb trees. This is more common in smaller, younger individuals.

Using a similar body movement reticulated pythons, like all snakes, must shed their skin in order to repair injuries or during developmental stages of life. The shedding of a snakes skin, or ecdysis, is necessary in order to facilitate their ever-growing bodies. These snakes exhibit indeterminate growth. (Grace, et al., 1999; Willson and Dorcas, 2011)

  • Range territory size
    25 to 100 m^2
  • Average territory size
    50 m^2

Home Range

The home range of the reticulated python is not known. Some studies have shown the reticulated python to occupy areas of higher heat with a source of water nearby. Most pythons will travel substantial distances to find an area favorable for reproductive success. The size of inhabited area is directly associated with the means of protection and survival of the nest they are incubating or look to incubate. (Ayers and Shine, 2003; Mullin and Seigel, 2009)

Communication and Perception

Like all snakes, Python reticulatus is virtually deaf to airborne noises and is visually restricted due to immovable eyelids. This requires the python to rely on its sense of smell and touch to locate predators and prey. The reticulated python does not have ears, instead it has an ossicle organ called "columella" which allows the python to sense the vibrations in the ground. Due to the absence of ears, snakes and other pythons must use physical movements to create vibrations in order to communicate to one another. Vibrations are used to initiate mating or warn other pythons of a possible territorial dominance. Although the reticulated python possesses nasal cavities the sense of smell is conducted by the use of the forked tongue to flick air particles towards the "vomeronasal organ" which is located on the roof a snake's mouth.

The reticulated python also communicates with other snakes by using a series of pheromones applied to the topsoil of forest floor. These pheromones allow other snakes to interpret the gender, reproductive success, and age by smelling them. Especially in presence of females, pythons have been known to initiate combat with a fellow male python in order to establish dominance and attract a mate. (Seigel and Collins, 2001; Willson and Dorcas, 2011; Wright and Wright, 1957)

Food Habits

The reticulated python is most commonly known to feed on mammals and bird species found within its geographic range. Types of prey documented include small bats Myotis, tree shrews Scandentia, and deer Cervidae, to even sun bears Helarctos malayanus. Python reticulatus is considered the snake most likely to consume a human because of the numerous attacks on people in the wild and attacks on owners by reticulated pythons. Using pit organs, specialized organs in certain species of snakes which detect radiant heat, Python reticulatus detect the location of prey by the temperature relation of the prey to the surrounding area. This allows the python to detect prey and predators without necessarily seeing them. (Willson and Dorcas, 2011)

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats terrestrial vertebrates
  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • reptiles


Predation on reticulated pythons by other organisms is nearly nonexistent because of its large size. Python eggs and newly-hatched pythons are at risk from predators such as birds (hawks, eagles, herons) and small mammals. However, the predation on adult pythons is very scarce and limited to crocodiles and other large predators. Pythons are only at a high risk of predation near the edges of bodies of water where crocodiles might be waiting to attack. The only defense against predators, besides size, is a powerful constriction by the snakes body which can literally squeeze the life out of an organism an around 3 to 4 minutes. (Mullin and Seigel, 2009; Willson and Dorcas, 2011)

  • Known Predators
    • Crocodiles, hawks, eagles, herons, small mammals

Ecosystem Roles

The reticulated python plays a key role in prey regulation amongst rodents in environments near farmlands and grasslands.

The feces of the reticulated python has shown sporocysts which lead to the growth of cysts in several rodent species (e.g., Rattus tiomanicus) on the small tropical islands of Singapore and areas of western Malaysia. These cysts develop in the larynx and esophagus of rats causing a great deal of pain and restriction amongst food and water intake as well as breathing. Beyond this report, no parasites have been documented for this python. (Paperna and Peh, 2004; Reed, 2005)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Python reticulatus is one of the most commonly hunted snakes globally. Because of its large size, reticulated pythons are hunted and sold internationally for their skin throughout the whole year. Apart from skin, reticulated pythons have such a large size that it is also hunted and sold for its meats. Large demands to own exotic animals have grown which shows reticulated pythons being captured in the pet trading market to be sold all over the planet. Reticulated pythons hunt small rodents near farmlands which farmers encourage because it helps reduce rodents interacting with crops. (Ayers and Shine, 2003; Mullin and Seigel, 2009; Rawlings, et al., 2008; Willson and Dorcas, 2011)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pet trade
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The reticulated python is able to ingest a large mass of food in one instance which makes it a danger to mammals and primates. Although it's not common, attacks on humans from reticulated pythons are prevalent where humans are forest-dwelling or live hunter-gatherer lifestyles. The reticulated python uses its large size to constrict it's prey and then fully ingest the prey itself. In the Philippines, a tribe called the Agta have been competing with the reticulated python for food and predation. The Agta are known for eating the reticulated python; because of it's large size it contains large amounts of meat. Between 1934 and 1974, 6 fatal attacks on humans by reticulated pythons were reported. Amongst the Agta populations, 26% of adult males have reportedly survived predation attempts by reticulated pythons. Although the reticulated python poses a threat, the Agta and similar forest-dwelling communities have been hunting pythons and are able to protect themselves adequately.

Human fatalities outside of forest-dwelling environments are extremely rare. However, in 1982 a 21-month-old infant was found dead in his crib after a pet reticulated python had escaped its containment. The child was found in his crib with several puncture wounds from the snake's jaw. (Headland and Greene, 2001; McCarty, 1989)

  • Negative Impacts
  • injures humans

Conservation Status

The reticulated python is not threatened with extinction, however, under Appendix II of CITES, trading and selling of its skin is regulated to ensure its survival is not compromised. This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List. (Luiselli, et al., 2012; Ott and Secor, 2007; Willson and Dorcas, 2011)


Cameron Brown (author), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

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living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

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living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

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living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

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living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

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living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.


a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

delayed fertilization

a substantial delay (longer than the minimum time required for sperm to travel to the egg) takes place between copulation and fertilization, used to describe female sperm storage.


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

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reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


an organism that obtains nutrients from other organisms in a harmful way that doesn't cause immediate death


development takes place in an unfertilized egg

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


Referring to a mating system in which a female mates with several males during one breeding season (compare polygynous).


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


mature spermatozoa are stored by females following copulation. Male sperm storage also occurs, as sperm are retained in the male epididymes (in mammals) for a period that can, in some cases, extend over several weeks or more, but here we use the term to refer only to sperm storage by females.


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate


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