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







Reticulated Python

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Fig 5

Fig 6

Species : Malayopython reticulatus (formerly Python reticulatus)
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 large.

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 areas.

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 are common.

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. jampeanus.

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.