Added 25 June 2002.

A quick guide to PYTHONS:



The genus Aspidites is characterised by an absence of teeth on the premaxilla (unusually for Australian pythons) and of pits in the rostral or labial scales. The symmetrical shields on top of the head are enlarged. Cogger notes that these species are not that closely related to the other Australian pythons. The range of both snakes is fairly wide. They remain among the most desirable of pythons to many keepers, often commanding a high price.

Common Name Species Origin Adult size Notes
Aspidites melanocephalus Black-Headed Python N. Australia 5-8' Expensive snake (upwards of £2,000 if you live in the UK) that is still quite rare and also challenging to keep and breed in captivity. Black-Headed Pythons live in coastal forests and woodlands, avoiding very dry areas. In nature they take lizards and snakes (Breen notes that they will attack even the most venomous snakes), and are also cannibalistic. Apart from these problems, they are considered relatively undemanding, although obviously should be kept individually when outside of the mating season. This is another snake that, given its price tag and rarity, is best left to experts. Scalation details [Cogger]: scales smooth, 50-65 rows at midbody. Ventrals 315-355. Anal single. Subcaudals 60-75, mostly single but posterior ones divided, often irregularly. Coloration: head, neck and throat glossy black, rest of dorsum brown with cream-yellow stripes: the brown is lighter on the sides, and the ventral surfaces are cream to yellow, often with darker blotches.
Aspidites ramsayi Woma Interior of Australia from east to west 5½-8' The Woma has only become available outside of Australia within the last 20 years, and even now remains expensive. It is a nocturnal, terrestrial snake that prefers semi-arid or desert habitats. 8' is the maximum length but most individuals grow between 5½-6'. Although its tan- to yellow-coloured body is striped in dark brown or black it lacks the black head of its close relative the Black-Headed Python, and is supposedly somewhat easier to breed. Their temperament is normally good. Scalation details [Cogger]: scales smooth, 50-65 rows at midbody. Ventrals 280-315. Anal single. Subcaudals 45-55, mostly single but a few posterior ones divided, often irregularly.


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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