Python, a large, primitive snake of tropical Asia and Africa. Like the similar but unrelated boa constrictor of tropical America, the python has vestigial hind limbs that extend outside the body as a pair of short spurs. Unlike the boa, the python lays eggs—as many as 100 at a time—instead of bearing its young alive.

PythonsPythons are among the largest snakes in the world.

The python is not poisonous. However, it can inflict a severe wound with its many long, sharp teeth. It eats birds and mammals, capturing its prey by biting and holding on, then swiftly looping itself around the victim. The snake tightens its coils until the prey, unable to breathe, dies of suffocation. (The python does not crush its prey.) The snake swallows its prey whole and rests for days while the meal is slowly digested. It can swallow creatures much larger than itself, because its skin is somewhat elastic and its jaws and ribs are hinged with tissue that stretches readily, permitting the mouth, throat, and abdomen to expand.

Types of Pythons

There are about 30 species of pythons. Most are ground-dwellers that occasionally climb trees. Some live only in trees; a few are burrowers. All are good swimmers.

The largest python is the reticulated python of southeastern Asia and the East Indies. It has been known to reach a length of about 30 feet (9 m) and a weight of 250 pounds (113 kg). (Only the anaconda, a type of boa, is of comparable size.) The reticulated python is brown with dark, squarish markings edged with yellow. It lives mainly in forests, but also is found in populated areas, where it feeds on poultry, cats, and dogs. Pythons rarely attack human beings.

Other large pythons include the African rock python, the Burmese python, and the Indian python, all of which may reach a length of 20 feet (6 m) or more. In captivity, pythons live about 20 years.

Which Snake Will Leave You Breathless?

Pythons (PY thahnz) coil their thick bodies around their prey. Then they slowly squeeze the breath out of the animal. Pythons are called constrictors because of the way they suffocate their prey.

Pythons live in southern Asia, Africa, and Australia. Some species are among the largest snakes in the world. They grow to lengths of 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters). But most pythons are much smaller and pose no serious threat to people. In fact, many kinds of pythons are kept as pets. Baby pythons hatch from eggs. Unlike most snakes, a mother python stays with her eggs. Indian pythons and some other python species coil around their eggs to keep them warm until they hatch.

Boas (BOH uhz) are also constrictors that can grow to be quite large. Boas are different from pythons in that they give birth to live young.

The reticulated python is Python reticulatus; African, P. sebae; Burmese, P. molurus bivittatus; Indian, P. molurus molurus. Pythons make up the subfamily Pythonidae.