Python molurus ranges across the lower half of the Asian continent. The species' western limit is thought to be the Indus Valley. It may range as far north as Quingchuan County of Sichuan Province, China, and as far south as Borneo. Indian pythons seem to be absent from the Malayan Peninsula. It has yet to be determined whether the populations scattered throughout several of the smaller islands are native or feral (escaped pets) populations. There are two recognized subspecies of P. molurus which are separated by geographic range and certain physical characteristics. P. molurus molurus is native to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. The larger of the two, P. molurus bivitatus (the Burmese python), is typically thought to range from Myanmar eastward across southern Asia through China and Indonesia. It is not present on the island of Sumatra. Introduced individuals have been sighted in the Florida Everglades.
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Introduced ); oriental (Native )
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Distribution: Pakistan, India (Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra (Mulshi – R.Kulkarni (pers. comm.), around Ghoshalkhamb – near Lonavla, Valvan – S.Choudhary (pers. comm.)) [A. Captain, pers. comm.]), USA (introduced and established in Florida according to MESHAKA et al. 2004).
Type locality: “Indiis”
Indian pythons are divided into two recognized subspecies, which can be distinguished by physical characteristics. Burmese pythons, P. molurus bivitatus, can grow to lengths of about 7.6 m (25 ft), and can weigh as much as 137 kg (300 lbs.). Indian pythons, P. molurus molurus, stays smaller, reaching a maximum of about 6.4 m (21 ft) in length, and weighing as much as 91 kg (200 lbs.). The hides of both subspecies are marked with a rectangular mosaic type pattern that runs the full length of the animal. P. molurus bivitatus is more darkly colored, with shades of brown and dark cream rectangles that lay over a black background. This subspecies is also characterized by an arrow-shaped marking present on the top of the head, which begins the pattern. P. molurus molurus has similar markings with light brown and tan rectangles placed over a typically cream background. P. molurus molurus only has a partial arrow-shaped marking on the top of the head. Each scale of P. molurus molurus is a single color.
Indian pythons are dimorphic with females of both subspecies being longer and heavier than males. Males have larger cloacal spurs, or vestigial limbs, than do females. The cloacal spurs are two projections, one on either side of the anal vent, that are thought to be extensions of posterior limbs.
Range mass: 137 (high) kg.
Range length: 7.6 (high) m.
Other Physical Features: heterothermic
Sexual Dimorphism: female larger
Average basal metabolic rate: 1.2661 W.
Indian pythons are found in a variety of habitats including rainforests, river valleys, woodlands, scrublands, grassy marshes, and semi rocky foothills. They are usually found in habitats with areas that can provide sufficient cover. This species is never found very far from water sources, and seems to prefer very damp terrain.
Habitat Regions: tropical
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest
Other Habitat Features: riparian
Python molurus is carnivorous. Its diet consists mostly of live prey. Its staples are rodents and other mammals. A small portion of its diet consists of birds, amphibians, and reptiles. When looking for food P. molurus will either stalk prey, ambush, or scavenge for carrion. These snakes have very poor eyesight. To compensate for this, the species has a highly developed sense of smell, and heat pits within each scale along the upper lip, which sense the warmth of nearby prey. Indian pythons kill prey by biting and constricting until the prey suffocates. Prey items are then swallowed whole. To accomplish the feat of swallowing the prey, P. molurus molurus dislocates its jaw and stretches its highly elastic skin around the prey. This allows these snakes to swallow food items many times larger than thier own heads. In cases of scavenging there is no constriction of the prey (Murphy and Henderson 1997, Woodland Park Zoo 2000).
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; carrion
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)
Python molurus eats many rodents as well as a variety of vertebrates. It may be important in limiting populations of its prey.
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Like all snakes, chemoreception is important for finding prey, and generally perceiving the environment. Python molurus also has heat sensing pits on its head that allow it to detect endothermic prey that are warmer than the surrounding environment. It has poor eyesight.
Perception Channels: visual ; infrared/heat ; tactile ; chemical
Young Python molurus are precocial when they hatch. They become independent soon after hatching. They become sexually mature between 2-3 years of age provided the proper body weight is met.
Status: captivity: 15.8 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Python molurus reaches sexual maturity between 2-3 years of age provided the proper body weight is met. At this time courting behavior may begin. During courtship, the male wraps his body around the female and repeatedly flicks his tongue across her head and body. Once they align their cloacas, the male uses his vestigial legs to massage the female and stimulate her. Copulation ensues, with the female raising her tail to allow the male to insert one hemipenis (he has two) into the female's cloaca. This process lasts between 5-30 minutes. Approximately 3-4 months later, the female will lay up to 100 eggs, each weighing as much as 207 g (7.3 oz). At this time the female generally coils around the eggs in preparation for an incubation period. Incubation lasts between 2-3 months.
Range number of offspring: 100 (high) .
Range gestation period: 2 to 3 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 to 3 years.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 to 3 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; sexual ; oviparous
Average number of offspring: 40.
During incubation female Python molurus use muscular contractions or "shivers" to raise their body temperatures slightly higher than the surrounding air temperature. It is very uncommon for a mother to leave the eggs during incubation. Once the eggs hatch, the young quickly become independent.
Parental Investment: pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Female)
Evolution and Systematics
Heart of burmese python incurs dramatic growth after a meal by reacting to fatty acids in the snake's plasma.
"Burmese pythons display a marked increase in heart mass after a large meal. We investigated the molecular mechanisms of this physiological heart growth with the goal of applying this knowledge to the mammalian heart. We found that heart growth in pythons is characterized by myocyte hypertrophy in the absence of cell proliferation and by activation of physiological signal transduction pathways. Despite high levels of circulating lipids, the postprandial python heart does not accumulate triglycerides or fatty acids. Instead, there is robust activation of pathways of fatty acid transport and oxidation combined with increased expression and activity of superoxide dismutase, a cardioprotective enzyme. We also identified a combination of fatty acids in python plasma that promotes physiological heart growth when injected into either pythons or mice." (Riquelme 2011:528)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
The gastrointestinal system in burmese pythons quickly regulates performance between fasting and feeding (leading to energy savings) thanks to cell plasticity.
"The morphology of the digestive system in fasting and refed Burmese pythons was determined, as well as the localization of the proton (H+, K+-ATPase) and sodium (Na+, K+-ATPase) pumps. In fasting pythons, oxyntopeptic cells located within the fundic glands are typically non-active, with a thick apical tubulovesicular system and numerous zymogen granules. They become active immediately after feeding but return to a non-active state 3 days after the ingestion of the prey. The proton pump, expressed throughout the different fasting/feeding states, is either sequestered in the tubulovesicular system in non-active cells or located along the apical digitations extending within the crypt lumen in active cells. The sodium pump is rapidly upregulated in fed animals and is classically located along the baso-lateral membranes of the gastric oxyntopeptic cells. In the intestine, it is only expressed along the lateral membranes of the enterocytes, i.e., above the lateral spaces and not along the basal side of the cells. Thus, solute transport within the intestinal lining is mainly achieved through the apical part of the cells and across the lateral spaces while absorbed fat massively crosses the entire height of the cells and flows into the intercellular spaces. Therefore, in the Burmese python, the gastrointestinal cellular system quickly upregulates after feeding, due to inexpensive cellular changes, passive mechanisms, and the progressive activation and synthesis of key enzymes such as the sodium pump. This cell plasticity also allows anticipation of the next fasting and feeding periods." (Helmstetter et al. 2009:632)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Python molurus
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
Python molurus is listed by IUCN as lower risk, near threatened. Since June 14, 1976, P. molurus has been listed by the U.S. ESA as endangered throughout its range. The subspecies P. molurus molurus is listed as endangered in Appendix I of CITES. Other P. molurus subspecies are listed in Appendix II, as are all other species of Pythonidae.
US Federal List: endangered
CITES: appendix i; appendix ii
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: lower risk - near threatened
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
No negative impact is known.
There is a high amount of exportation for the pet trade. The skin of Indian pythons is highly valued in the fashion industry due to its exotic look. In its native range it is also hunted as a source of food.
Positive Impacts: pet trade ; body parts are source of valuable material
Python molurus is a large nonvenomous python species found in many tropic and subtropic areas of Southern and Southeast Asia. It is known by the common names Indian python, black-tailed python and Indian rock python. The species is limited to Southern Asia. It is generally lighter colored than the Burmese python and reaches usually 3 metres (9.8 ft).
Indian python, black-tailed python, Indian rock python, Asian rock python. Referred to as "Ajingar" in Nepali,"Ajgar" in Hindi and Marathi, "Azdaha" in Urdu and "awjogor" in Bengali. In Sri Lanka the species is commonly referred to as "Pimbura-පිඹුරා" in Sinhala. The subspecies Python molurus pimbura was thought to have stemmed from the alias given in Sri Lanka, however the pimbura, or Ceylonese Python is no longer considered a valid subspecies or locality and are known and registered as the same animal.
The color pattern is whitish or yellowish with the blotched patterns varying from shades of tan to dark brown. This varies with terrain and habitat. Specimens from the hill forests of Western Ghats and Assam are darker, while those from the Deccan Plateau and East Coast are usually lighter.
In Pakistan, Indian Pythons commonly reach a length of 2.4–3 metres (7.9–9.8 ft). In India, the nominate subspecies grows to 3 metres (9.8 ft) on average  This value is supported by a 1990 study in Keoladeo National Park, where the biggest 25% of the python population was 2.7–3.3 metres (8.9–10.8 ft) long. Only two specimen even measured nearly 3.6 metres (12 ft). Because of confusion with the Burmese python, exaggerations and stretched skins in the past, the maximum length of this subspecies is hard to tell. The longest scientifically recorded specimen, which hailed from Pakistan, was 4.6 metres (15 ft) in length and weighed 52 kilograms (115 lb).
Occurs in a wide range of habitats, including grasslands, swamps, marshes, rocky foothills, woodlands, "openys. They depend on a permanent source of water. Sometimes they can be found in abandoned mammal burrows, hollow trees, dense water reeds and mangrove thickets.
Lethargic and slow moving even in its native habitat, they exhibit timidity and rarely try to attack even when attacked. Locomotion is usually rectilinear, with the body moving in a straight line. They are very good swimmers and are quite at home in water. They can be wholly submerged in water for many minutes if necessary, but usually prefer to remain near the bank.
These snakes are carnivore animals and feed on mammals, birds and reptiles indiscriminately, but seem to prefer mammals. Roused to activity on sighting prey, the snake will advance with quivering tail and lunge with open mouth. Live prey is constricted and killed. One or two coils are used to hold it in a tight grip. The prey, unable to breathe, succumbs and is subsequently swallowed head first. After a heavy meal, they are disinclined to move. If forced to, hard parts of the meal may tear through the body. Therefore, if disturbed, some specimens will disgorge their meal in order to escape from potential predators. After a heavy meal, an individual may fast for weeks, the longest recorded duration being 2 years. The python can swallow prey bigger than its diameter because the jaw bones are not connected. Moreover, prey cannot escape from its mouth because of the arrangement of the teeth (which are reverse saw-like).
Oviparous, up to 100 eggs are laid by the animal, which are protected and incubated by the female. Towards this end, it has been shown that they are capable of raising their body temperature above the ambient level through muscular contractions. The hatchlings are 45–60 cm (18–24 in) in length and grow quickly. An artificial incubation method using climate-controlled environmental chambers was developed in India for successfully raising hatchlings from abandoned or un-attended eggs
The Indian Python is classified as Lower Risk/Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (v2.3, 1996). This listing indicates that it may become threatened with extinction and is in need of frequent reassessment.
The Burmese python (Python bivittatus) was referred to as a subspecies of the Indian python until 2009, when it was raised to a full species. The name Python molurus bivittatus is found in older literature.
Python molurus (colour mutations) Huntington Beach, CA
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- Bhupathy, S. (1990), "Blotch structure in individual identification of the Indian Python (Python molurus molurus) and its possible usage in population estimation", Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 87 (3): 399–404.
- R. Whitaker, A. Captain: Snakes of India, The field guide. Chennai, India: Draco Books 2004, ISBN 81-901873-0-9, p. 3, 12, 78-81.
- Mehrtens JM. 1987. Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. 480 pp. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X.
- Hutchison, Victor H.; Dowling, Herndon G. & Vinegar, Allen (1966), "Thermoregulation in a Brooding Female Indian Python, Python molurus bivittatus", Science 151 (3711): 694–695, doi:10.1126/science.151.3711.694.
- Balakrishnan, Peroth; Sajeev, T.V; Bindu, T.N (2010). "Artificial incubation, hatching and release of the Indian Rock Python Python molurus (Linnaeus, 1758), in Nilambur, Kerala.". Reptile Rap 10: 24–27.
- Python molurus at the IUCN Red List. Accessed 12 July 2009.
- 1994 Categories & Criteria (version 2.3) at the IUCN Red List. Accessed 13 September 2007.
- Jacobs, H.J.; Auliya, M.; Böhme, W. (2009). "On the taxonomy of the Burmese Python, Python molurus bivittatus KUHL, 1820, specifically on the Sulawesi population". Sauria 31 (3): 5–11.
- Whitaker R. (1978). Common Indian Snakes: A Field Guide. Macmillan India Limited.
- Daniel, JC. The Book Of Indian Snakes and Reptiles. Bombay Natural History Society
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Python molurus.|
- Python molurus at the Reptarium.cz Reptile Database. Accessed 13 September 2007.
- Indian Python at Ecology Asia. Accessed 13 September 2007.
- Indian python at Animal Pictures Archive. Accessed 13 September 2007.
- Watch Indian rock python (Python molurus) video clips from the BBC archive on Wildlife Finder
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