Added 27 June 2002. Last updated 17 December 2004: updated details for A. perthensis and A. stimsoni.

A quick guide to PYTHONS:



The genus Antaresia is made up mainly of species formerly considered part of the Liasis genus. It can be distinguished from the latter by having two or more loreal scales (Liasis species only have one) on each side [Cogger]. Other characteristics include teeth on the premaxilla, large symmetrical head shields and a series of small scales between the labials and the loreals.

A. childreni, Children's Python A. maculosa, Spotted Python A. perthensis, Anthill Python
A. stimsoni, Large-Blotched/Stimson's Python    

Common Name Species Origin Adult size Notes
A. childreni Children's Python N. Central Australia (coastal) 3-3½' Nothing to do with children as such but with a British Museum zoological keeper, John Children, in whose honour this python was named (actually it was a different snake - see Bartlett & Wagner). Although perhaps not as well known as the Royal Python P. regius, the Children's Python is in some ways an easier pet, being smaller and less fussy about food, and breeds well in captivity. They also have good dispositions. Perhaps the biggest problem is obtaining one, since Australian wildlife is protected and those keepers in the rest of the world depend therefore on captive-bred specimens from existing stock. This nocturnal python is reddish- or earth-brown in colouration with a pale underbelly. There are darker coloured blotches on the dorsal part of the body but these tend to blend in with the overall colour as the snake ages. There is usually also a paler stripe along the first third of the body where the ventrum joins the dorsum. Habitat in nature is very catholic, including dry woodlands but also river edges, termite mounds, and caves, where these snakes prey on bats. The only possible difficulty with any hatchlings of this species is that some may need their food (if the usual rodent fare) scented with a lizard. Cogger however notes that on the whole the species takes small mammals, reptiles and birds. Scalation: anterior supralabials not deeply pitted; parietals normal, undivided; 2 or more loreals on each side; scalation smooth, in 36-49 rows at midbody; 250-300 ventral rows; anal single; subcaudals 35-60, mostly divided but with usually a few single ones at the front of the tail.
A. maculosa Spotted Python/ Eastern Small-Blotched Python/ Eastern Children's Python Australia (NSW, E Queensland) 43-65" (75-100cm) This is a handsome snake, being overall tan with dark blotches that unlike those of many pythons retain their distinctive shape and colour as the snake ages. In the wild it is a creature of wooded, forested and/or semi-arid areas. Although lengths of up to 65" have been recorded, the normal size is 43-47". Also unusual is the fact that in captivity Spotted Pythons will live fairly well together in pairs, trios or two pairs. This, together with their size, disposition and ease of breeding, makes them an ideal python pet. Scalation: anterior supralabials not deeply pitted; parietal shields normal and undivided; 2 or more loreals each side. Dorsal scalation: smooth, in 35-45 rows at midbody. Ventral scalation: 245-290 rows. Other: single anal, 30-45 subcaudals. Coloration: overall dorsal pale to medium brown, with "pixellate" edged darker blotches of varying size and shape that nevertheless maintain a regular spacing along the the body, giving the impression of transverse bands. The head is light brown and may or may not have darker flecks or blotches: lips are usually paler but usually flecked or barred with darker brown. A dark streak runs through each eye. Ventrally white or yellowish. Reproduction: no details available.
A. perthensis Anthill Python Pilbara and adj. rocky territories in NW Aust. 18-23" Formerly (and misleadingly) known as the Perth Python, the Anthill Python derives its name from its habitat of termite mounds (known in Australia as anthills). It preys primarily on lizards, notably the gecko Gehyra pillbara which is also associated with termite mounds. Only 2-5 eggs per clutch are laid, always within the termite mound. Colouring is yellow to red with some blotching which becomes less distinct with age. Bartlett & Wagner note that these pythons adapt well to captivity, but does not mention whether they can safely or easily be taught to take rodent prey instead of lizards. Scalation: anterior supralabials not deeply pitted; parietals normal, undivided; 2 or more loreals on each side; scalation smooth, in 31-35 rows at midbody; 205-255 ventral rows; anal single; subcaudals 30-45, mostly divided but with usually a few single ones at the front of the tail.
A. stimsoni Large-Blotched Python/Stimson's Python W. & C. Australia 35-39" For such a small python it may seem surprising that it has a huge number of teeth - 150 - and also the largest range of any Australian python. There is still much to be established about their natural history but they appear to be nocturnal snakes that prefer arid areas including scrub, termite mounds and caves occupied by bats. Basic overall pattern is yellow which is made to look darker by the many large dorsal maroon blotches on the snake. They resemble other Antaresia species, notably the Children's and the Small-Blotched, but can be distinguished from the former by their longer snout and larger eyes and from the latter by a pale lateral line that runs from the neck up to a third or half way down the body. In captivity they settle down and can be kept much as other Antaresia species. Scalation: anterior supralabials not deeply pitted; parietals normal, undivided; 2 or more loreals on each side; scalation smooth, in 35-49 rows at midbody; 240-305 ventral rows; anal single; subcaudals 30-45, mostly divided but with usually a few single ones at the front of the tail.


Pythons: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual, Patricia Bartlett and Ernie Wagner, Barrons, 1997, New York/Hong Kong. As mentioned above, a very useful and comprehensive guide to the principles of keeping and breeding pythons and with useful species accounts.

Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, Harold Cogger, 6th edition, Reed New Holland, Australia, 2000. Indispensable guide for an overview and identification details of all Australian herptiles.

Breeding and Keeping Snakes, Dr Dieter Schmidt (translated by William Charlton), TFH, 1995 (originally published in German under the title Schlangen [Snakes] by Urania-Verlag, Leipzig). Although a more general book inasmuch as it covers other snake families besides the pythons, most books by German herpetoculturists are always worth a look. Schmidt does not cover many of the python species other than the most common or desirable ones, and even here the reader should be aware that some of the species listed are placed under older classifications than Bartlett and Wagner's book (eg the Diamond Python which is now Morelia spilota spilota is here listed as Python spilotus, while the White-Lipped Python Leiopython albertisi is listed as Liasis albertisi, and so on). Nevertheless the book does have some useful sections, including a table "Compilation of Breeding Dates in Pythons", plus Genetics and Hybridisation.

Snakes of the World, Chris Mattison, Blandford, 1986/1992, London. A good book with the only reservation being that applied to Dieter Schmidt's, ie some of the taxonomy/classification is now out of date. See also Mattison's Keeping and Breeding Snakes (Blandford) which is probably more immediately useful to snake keepers.

Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians, John Breen, TFH, 1974, Neptune City, New Jersey. Now rather outdated in many details but still a good introduction and with the odd useful bit of information.

If you are interested in the taxonomy of the Australasian pythons, an interesting article is Raymond Hoser's "Revision of the Australasian Pythons", Ophidia Review, Issue 1 Autumn 2000.

See also Periodical Index - Boas and Pythons for magazine articles relating to the various species listed here.

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