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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







White-lipped Pythons

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Fig 5



Species : Leiopython spp.
Maximum Size :
Up to 2.8 metres in the Southern White-lipped Python.

White-lipped Pythons comprise the genus Leiopython, of which 6 species have been identified (Schleip, 2008, 2014). Five of these occur on the island of New Guinea (L. albertisii, L. fredparkeri, L. huonensis, L. meridionalis and L. montanus) and another occurs on the island of Biak, in eastern Indonesia (L. biakensis). These snakes were formerly considered as part of the D'Albertis Python species complex.

Featured here is the Southern White-lipped Python Leiopython meridionalis, the largest of the group. The general appearance of this species can be considered as broadly representative for the genus as whole.

This snake reaches up to 2.8 metres total length. It occurs in a variety of habitats including lower montane primary rainforest, and drier lowland forest. It is generally encountered at night as it crosses roads and tracks in forested areas. It reportedly feeds on a variety of smaller ground-dwelling vertebrates.

The upperside of its thickset body is described as 'blackish-blue' (Schleip, 2008) however under flash photography it appears brown, with strong iridescence. The top of the elongated head is also dark, with white labial scales (lip scales) and white throat. It lacks a white spot behind the eye, which is present in some other white-lipped pythons.

In Papua New Guinea the Southern White-lipped Python is recorded from Western Province, Southern Highlands Province, Central Province, Oro Province, Milne Bay Province, and around the capital, Port Moresby. In Indonesian New Guinea (Papua Province) it is recorded from Merauke in the southeast of the province.

Fig 1 : A 1.5 metre Southern White-lipped Python found at an elevation of 1100 metres in the Southern Highlands Province of PNG. The forest in this area is dense, wet forest on karst limestone.

Fig 2 : Primary montane forest at 1100 metres.

Figs 3 to 5 : This snake exhibits strong iridescence when illuminated by camera flash.

References :

Schleip, W. D. (2008). Revision of the genus Leiopython Hubrecht 1879 (Serpentes: Pythonidae) with the redescription of taxa recently described by Hoser (2000) and the description of new species. Journal of Herpetology, 42(4), 645-667.

Schleip, W. D. (2014). Two new species of Leiopython Hubecht, 1879 (Pythonidae: Serpentes): non-compliance with the international code of zoological nomenclature leads to unavailable names in zoological nomenclature. Journal of Herpetology, 48(2), 272-275.

Links  :

Leiopython website (Wulf Schleip)