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Regions > Australasia > White-lipped python

White-lipped python

Location at the Zoo: Australasia



Region:

Australasia

Class:

Reptilia

Order:

Squamata

Family:

Boidae

Genus:

Liasis

Scientific Name:

Liasis albertisii

Description

: This is one of the most iridescent species of python with a medium size, slender, round body. The head is long and the snout is long and slender with a slight longitudinal depression on the upper lateral surface to the eye. Behind the eyes the temporal region of the head widens, becoming markedly wider at the neck. The head is the darkest blackish-brown or black, slightly darker than the dark body colour. The labial scales are characteristically white or off-white. The supralabials have dark barring on the vertical sutures between scales, with most dark pigment on the anterior margins of the scales. The chin is white without dark markings. Some of the infralabials continue the dark barring of the supralabials, but much reduced, usually some smudges along the upper border of the scales.

The eye appears grey-brown or dark grey: on close examination it looks to have a grey background heavily overlaid with dark smudges and filaments. The tongue is bluish-grey with reddish sides and tips. The body is yellow and the dorsal scales, particularly the large, flat head plates, reflect lustrous hues of blues, greens and oranges. The body is finely scaled with 45 - 50 scale rows around midbody. The body and tail of Australian specimens are a dark blackish-brown without pattern. The belly is white, off-white or ivory. In most specimens the posterior margin of all pale lower body scales and the ventrals are finely bordered with the dark dorsal colour. Males are generally shorter and slimmer than the females while females are longer and wider than the males. May grow to 200 - 300 cm in length.

Distribution

: Several islands – Dauan, Saibai and possibly Boigu – at the northern boundary of Australian Territory in the Torres Strait about 10 - 20 km from the Papau mainland. They also range throughout New Guinea at elevations less than 1,250 m and have been found on nearby Salawati Island, Biak Island and Normanby Island. There is also an isolated population on Mussau, an island in the St. Matthias group at the north-western tip of the Bismark Archipelago.

Habitat

: Mainly found in forested habitats, including monsoon forest, coastal palm swamps, secondary growth and forest margin. Primarily terrestrial, it spends much of its time in moist burrows or beneath mats of vegetation or leaves.

Food

: Small mammals (mainly rats and lizards) and birds. Prey is constricted until it is dead then it is swallowed head first.

Reproduction and Development

: Mating season is from December to March. The gestation period is three months. They are oviparous with females laying between 5 – 20 eggs with 7 – 12 being the average. The eggs stick together in a compact pile and the female coils around them. The hatchlings emerge after about two months of incubation and are about 38 cm in length.

Adaptations

: These are nonvenomous snakes and all members of this family kill their prey by constriction (throwing one or two coils around their victim). Death is caused by suffocation. The extendable trachea extrudes from the mouth and helps them to breathe while eating. Vision is only effective at short range or for perception of movement. To compensate, the members of this family have small rectangular openings on the upper and lower lips which enable the snake to perceive faint heat radiations. In common with other snakes they are provided with an extremely effective olfactory organ, the Jacobson's Organ, in the roof of the mouth. The tongue continually samples the air and transfers particles to the Jacobson's Organ. The retina of pythons has both types of cells - rods and cones. The former are dim-light receptors, the latter bright light receptors. Chemoreception is well developed in pythons.

Threats to Survival

: Loss of forest habitat is the primary threat.

Status

: IUCN: Not listed; CITES: Appendix II.

Zoo Diet

: Rats, Vitamin E.


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