Due to its spectacular appearance, small size and peaceful nature, the royal python is one of the most popular snakes for keeping, both in zoos and at home. This is a rather unpretentious creature and it is possible to create favorable conditions for it even in an ordinary city apartment.
Origin of the species and description
Royal Python — ; a reptile belonging to non-poisonous snakes and the genus of true pythons. Due to its ability to quickly roll up into a tight ball when threatened, the king python is sometimes referred to as the ball python or ball python. The python is an inferior snake that has not gone through the full path of evolution.
Video: Royal Python
Signs indicating the primitiveness of the royal python:
- they have preserved spurs or rudimentary hind limbs, while these limbs have been completely lost in higher snakes;
- pythons have two lungs, while the superfamily of higher reptiles has only one lung.
Pythons, like all snakes, are descended from ancient lizards. The closest relatives are iguana-shaped, fusiform. Extinct giant water lizards or mososaurs — their sister group. The oldest single fossil snakes, discovered in 2014, belong to the Middle Jurassic deposits of England – about 167 million years ago. From the Cretaceous period, remains are already quite common, at which time snakes settled almost everywhere.
Fun fact: The python was named after a fearsome monster from ancient Greek mythology that guarded the entrance to the Delphic Oracle before Apollo occupied it.
Appearance and features
A royal python — the smallest representative of the genus of true pythons. The length of a sexually mature individual rarely exceeds one and a half meters. This reptile has a powerful and thick body with a short tail. Head — clearly defined relative to the cervical region, rather large, wide.
This python was called royal because of the spectacular memorable ornament on the body. If the abdominal part is mainly painted white or beige with occasional dark spots, then the rest of the body surface is decorated with alternating stripes of various irregular shapes, contrasting spots of light and dark brown, even black.
In some individuals may have prominent white edging on the body. The females are larger than the males. The rudiments of the hind limbs are more pronounced in the latter.
An interesting fact: Long-term selection work contributed to the receipt and consolidation in captivity of numerous morphological changes in the color of the skin of the royal python. There are morphs with very interesting coloration and pattern on the body, some of them are completely devoid of integumentary scales.
Unlike boas, pythons have teeth. They are directed inside the mouth, very thin, needle-like. Due to the special arrangement of the teeth, the captured victim has practically no chance of freeing himself. Adults can have up to three hundred teeth.
Where does the king python live?
These spectacular reptiles live in savannas, equatorial forests, river valleys. The natural habitat of this species of pythons captures the whole of Africa, they are found in Senegal, Chad, Mali. These are very heat-loving creatures, they always settle near a reservoir, but live exclusively in burrows. They can settle near human habitation and destroy rodents that harm agriculture.
The royal python tolerates captivity well and can live up to 20-30 years, which is twice as long as in its natural habitat.
You only need to create certain conditions:
- the size of the terrarium should be at least 1 meter in length and 0.6 meters in height, width;
- the temperature in a warm corner during the day should not fall below 29 degrees, and in a cool corner rise above 25 degrees;
- at night, the temperature ratio at the corners is 20 and 18 degrees;
- illumination and heating of the terrarium should be carried out by means of incandescent lamps, heating cables;
- optimal air humidity is 50-60 percent, during molting it should be raised to 80 percent;
- it is necessary to build a place for shelter and install a container of water in which the python could fit completely.
Exotic pet lovers can easily get along with peaceful royal pythons, even children can take care of them.
What does a royal python eat?
All pythons are carnivores. The usual diet of royals consists of various rodents, birds, lizards, small animals. The python attacks its victim from an ambush and tries to thrust its sharp numerous teeth into its body in a throw. Then the reptile wraps the prey in tight rings and gradually squeezes until its blood circulation and breathing stops. The python swallows the dead victim very slowly, whole.
Due to the special structure, the reptile's jaws can open very wide. After the meal, the python crawls to a secluded place to digest food. Depending on the size of the prey, an adult can go without food from a week to a month. Sometimes, due to stomatitis, the snake completely refuses to eat and loses a lot of weight up to complete exhaustion. This is a very dangerous situation, as a weakened body is prone to the rapid development of various diseases, which, in the end, cause its death.
Interesting fact: In a terrarium, royal pythons are fed frozen and live mice with the obligatory addition of special vitamins. These reptiles are prone to obesity, so young pythons should not be fed more than once every few days, and adult pythons only need one feeding every 2-3 weeks.
Now you know how to feed the royal python. Let's see how the snake lives in the wild.
Character and lifestyle features
Royal python loner. Sexually mature individuals form pairs only for a short period of time during the mating season. Reptiles are excellent and willing swimmers, able to move quickly enough in the water column. The ball-shaped python skillfully climbs trees, but moves very slowly on the ground.
They are characterized by a rectilinear snake movement: first, the python stretches forward and rests the front part of the body on the surface, then pulls the body with the tail and stretches the front part again. The speed of movement is about 2-4 kilometers per hour. If necessary, for a short distance, the reptile is able to move at a speed of 10 kilometers per hour.
The royal reptile prefers a nocturnal lifestyle. It hunts only in the dark, during the day it rests in a secluded place, most often in earthen burrows, hollows, under the rubble of leaves and does not betray itself in any way. They are not interested in carrion, they react only to living food.
They never attack a person and can bite only in exceptional cases, when they feel a serious threat to themselves. All ball pythons shed. The frequency of molting depends on the age of the reptile. If young individuals shed their old skin once a month, then in adults the change of skin occurs much less often.
Social structure and reproduction
By 5-6 years royal pythons are ready to reproduce. The mating season falls in June-November, depending on weather conditions and the availability of sufficient food. Females attract males by producing pheromones. The mating process itself takes several hours.
After the process is completed, the fertilized female goes in search of the most suitable nest site. Most often, she digs a bowl-shaped recess in the ground or chooses a hollow in a rotten tree. Laying takes place about a couple of months after mating.
Python eggs have a leathery white surface. At one time, the female is able to produce from 20 to 40 eggs, but absolute records were also noted when their number exceeded a hundred.
Python females guard and incubate the eggs themselves, the male does not take part in this process. The reptile wraps its body around the masonry and spends many days in this position, not being distracted by hunting. Although snakes are cold-blooded, females keep their offspring warm through contractile thermogenesis. When the temperature drops, the python begins to contract the muscles of its powerful body very quickly, thereby raising the temperature to the desired level.
Incubation of eggs lasts about two months. Young growth is not born at the same time, but with a large interval, which can reach a month or more. In the future fate of small pythons, adults do not take part. They independently obtain their own food from the very first days of life. For the first six months, their weight increases by 4 times, reaching 200 grams with a body length of more than a meter. Under favorable conditions, these royal reptiles can live up to 25-35 years.
King python's natural enemies
Adult ball pythons have few enemies in their natural habitat. It can become prey for crocodiles, some large birds of prey and lizards. Young growth is more vulnerable, especially during the first month after birth, but the ability to disguise it saves it from total destruction.
The main enemy of royal pythons is the man himself. In some African countries, their meat is eaten, the skin with a spectacular pattern is used to make expensive shoes, bags, and clothes. Reptiles are suffering due to deforestation and the expansion of agricultural land. Conditions in their traditional habitats are violated, so they have to save themselves by moving to more remote places.
A huge number of pythons are exported to European countries. There are many illegal schemes for their export bypassing the established quotas, they are hunted by poachers. Every year, about 50,000 royal reptiles are imported from Sinegal alone to Europe.
Interesting fact: In some African countries, the royal python is considered a sacred creature, and it is forbidden by law to kill or eat it . If the reptile was killed by accident, then they buried it in a coffin with all possible honors, like a person.
Population and species status
In a number of African countries, there is a regular “census” of royal pythons. In 1997, in Ghana, experts counted about 6.4 million reptiles. Over the past twenty years, the population has slightly decreased and there is a tendency for a gradual decrease in the number of these reptiles, but the status of the species is currently stable. The authorities of many African countries are taking measures to curb the illegal trade in exotic goods, but the results so far are disappointing.
In order to affect the wild population of pythons as little as possible during export, special breeding farms are organized in their habitat. Of the vast majority of clutches made in terrariums, a yield of 100 percent is observed.
The leathery shells of ball python eggs are practically not affected by fungi and other diseases. Due to the fertility of these reptiles and the resistance of eggs to external influences, artificial breeding gives good results. Royal pythons help to actively replenish the treasury of many states.
Interesting fact: Experts have noticed that wild pythons from the western part of Africa adapt worse in artificially created conditions and often die during the first months of life in in captivity.
The royal python has a spectacular appearance, and these animals have become especially popular among fans of terrariums. The best option for keeping at home — reptile bred in captivity. In this case, the natural population is not damaged, and the acclimatization of individuals is much faster.