Family : PYTHONIDAE
Species : Malayopython reticulatus (formerly Python
Maximum Size : 10 metres
The magnificent Reticulated Python is one of the most impressive snakes
of Southeast Asia. At its greatest size it marginally exceeds 10 metres, which makes
this the longest snake in the world. Most specimens never reach this
length however, their growth probably being limited by a lack of
availability of large prey. A 5 to 7 metre specimen is considered to be
In his book 'Malayan Spymaster', Boris Hembry, a rubber planter in
Sumatra in 1931, described a recently killed specimen which he measured as 10.2 metres.
This highly adaptable snake occurs in a wide range of habitats from
lowland to lower montane forests (up to elevations of at least 1500 metres),
agricultural areas, scrublands and mangrove edge. In cities, such as Singapore
and Kuala Lumpur, they are often found in drainage channels in urban
They feed mainly on
small to medium mammals, particularly small deer and
wild pigs, constricting and suffocating their prey
before ingesting. In urban areas they take rats and cats. There are
indisputable cases where large specimens have killed and attempted
to consume human beings. Prey are
located by heat-sensitive pits in the labial scales (i.e. those lining the lips).
This snake is an excellent swimmer, and smaller specimens will readily
take to water when disturbed, swimming quickly down into the depths.
The species is highly fecund, and egg clutches of between 50 and 100 eggs
The striking patterning of this snake is unmistakable comprising a
zig-zig arrangement of black lines interspersed with yellow-brown and
dark brown or medium grey patches, with minor areas of white. The head
is elongate with a dark line down the middle, and the eyes are orange
with vertical pupils.
In recent years there have been a number of confusing changes in the
scientific name of this species. In 2008 a change from Python
reticulatus to Broghammerus reticulatus was widely accepted,
however in 2014 this was overturned (Reynolds et al, 2014) and a new
name of Malayopython reticulatus proposed which adhered to
correct naming procedures.
In addition to the main race, namely Malayopython reticulatus
reticulatus, two other localised subspecies are currently recognised
on islands south of Sulawesi, namely M. r. saputrai and M. r.
The Reticulated Python
occurs throughout mainland Southeast Asia, and most islands of the
Indo-malayan Archipelago including the Philippines, Borneo, Sumatra,
Java, Sulawesi and many island groups further east including the
Moluccas and Lesser Sunda island groups. Outside the region it
reportedly occurs in parts of Assam (northeast India) and Bangladesh.
Figs 1, 2 and 6 : Three metre specimen from Singapore's central forests.
Fig 3 : Resting by day in a tree branch over
riverine forest habitat. Kinabatangan River, Sabah, Borneo.
Fig 4 : Head of 3-metre specimen at Khao Yai
National Park, Thailand.
Fig 5 : Five metre specimen
found in a
drainage culvert, Singapore.
References : H16
Reynolds, R. G., Niemiller, M. L., & Revell,
L. J. (2014). Toward a Tree-of-Life for the boas and pythons: Multilocus
species-level phylogeny with unprecedented taxon sampling. Molecular
phylogenetics and evolution, 71, 201-213.