- Common names: royal python, ball python.
Adults generally do not grow to more than 90–120 cm (3.0–3.9 ft) in length, although some specimens have reached 152 cm and even 182 cm (5–6 feet), but this is very rare. Females tend to be slightly bigger than males maturing at an average of 4-4.5 feet. Males usually average around 3-3.5 feet. The build is stocky while the head is relatively small. The scales are smooth and both sexes have anal spurs on either side of the vent, although males have larger spurs.
The color pattern is typically black with light brown or gold sides and dorsal blotches. The belly is a white or cream that may or may not include scattered black markings. However, those in the pet industries have, through selective breeding, developed many morphs(genetic mutations) with altered colors and patterns.
Royal python, ball python.
The name ball python refers to the animal's tendency to curl into a ball when stressed or frightened. The name royal python (from the Latin "regius") is based in part on the story that Cleopatra supposedly wore the snake around her wrist.
Found in Africa from Senegal, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Benin, Niger and Nigeria through Cameroon, Chad and the Central African Republic to Sudan and Uganda. No type locality was given in the original description.
This terrestrial species is known for its defense strategy that involves coiling into a tight ball when threatened, with its head and neck tucked away in the middle. In this state, it can literally be rolled around. Favored retreats include mammal burrows and other underground hiding places where they also aestivate. In captivity they are considered good pets, for their relatively small size and placid nature make them easy to handle.
In the wild, the diet consists mostly of small mammals, such as African soft-furred rats, shrews and striped mice. Younger individuals have also been known to feed on birds. Pythons that are imported from the wild tend to be picky eaters and may not respond to food as well as captive-bred pythons, which usually do well on domestic rats and mice, either live, pre-killed, or frozen-thawed. The size of the prey item given to a python should be equivalent to or slightly larger than the width of the largest part of their body. This python is known for being a picky eater and may not eat for months, particularly during the winter breeding season. While this is not odd, care should be taken to watch that the snake does not experience significant weight loss.
Oviparous, with anywhere from 3-11 rather large eggs being laid (4-6 being most common). These are incubated by the female underground and hatch after 90 days. Sexual maturity is reached at 12–18 months for males, 24–36 months for females. Age is only one factor in determining sexual maturity and ability to breed – weight is the second factor. Males should be no less than 900g (2.0 lbs.) to breed, and females should be no less than 1500 g (3.3 lbs.).
Due to their smaller size compared to other pythons and commonly docile temperament, these snakes are bred in captivity and have become popular as pets. Juveniles tend to be more aggressive at first, but typically calm down as they get used to human contact. Wild-caught specimens have greater difficulty adapting to a captive environment, which can result in refusal to feed and parasitic infection. Specimens have survived for over 40 years in captivity. In Captivity, Python regius should be kept in no smaller than a 40 gallon tank, as these pythons are ground dwellers and need sufficient space to move around. Also, 2-3 hiding places should be provided at different ends of the tank, one should have a heating pad under it to allow the animal to regulate its temperature. Be aware that this particular species is an escape artist, therefore the tank you select should have a locking lid.
Beliefs and folklore
This species is particularly revered in the traditional religion of the Igbo people of southeastern Nigeria. It is considered symbolic of the earth, being an animal that travels so close to the ground. Even among many Christian Igbos, these pythons are treated with great care whenever they happen to wander into a village or onto someone's property; they are allowed to roam freely or are very gently picked up and placed out in a forest or field away from any homes. If one is accidentally killed, many communities in Igboland will still build a coffin for the snake's remains and give it a short funeral.
- ^ a b McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 1999. Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, vol. 1. Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
- ^ a b c d e f g Mehrtens JM. 1987. Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. 480 pp. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X.
- ^ Python regius (TSN 634784). Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved on 12 September 2007.
- ^ a b c d e f Barker DG, Barker TM. 2006. Ball Pythons: The History, Natural History, Care and Breeding (Pythons of the World, Volume 2). VPI Library. 320 pp. ISBN 0978541103.
- ^ http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=17+1831&aid=2422
- ^ Ball python at Pet Education. Accessed 12 September 2007.
- ^ (P. regius) Base Mutations at Graziani Reptiles. Accessed 12 September 2007.
- ^ Ball Python (Python regius) Caresheet at ball-pythons.net. Accessed 12 September 2007.
- ^ http://www.ajanimalfarm.com/ballpython.htm
- ^ Ball Pythons, Selection and Maintenance at MSN Groups. Accessed 12 September 2007.
- ^ Ball python at NERD Herpetocultural Library. Accessed 5 February 2009.
- ^ http://www.anapsid.org/ball.html
- ^ Hambly, Wilfrid Dyson; Laufer, Berthold (1931). "Serpent worship". Fieldiana Anthropology 21 (1). http://www.archive.org/details/serpentworshipin211hamb.