Squamata (Amphisbaenians, lizards and snakes)
Boidae (pythons and boas)
HABITAT AND RANGE
Ball pythons inhabit savannahs and open forests of west and central Africa.
Ball pythons range from 3-6 feet in length but are very thick and muscular for their length. They have a distinct head which is classical python in shape. Many heat sensitive pits line the front of the head. The colors and patterns can vary greatly from spots to stripes to a combination of the two. Color morphs can include green, brown and tan or pale and orange-yellow.
Ball pythons are almost exclusively rodent hunters such as rats, mice and gerbils. They generally do not eat during times of the year when night temperatures drop below 70 degrees F. They are nocturnal hunters with poor eyesight (this is typical in most snakes). They use their sense of smell via the Jacobson’s organ at the roof of their mouth to seek out prey and then they pinpoint it with their heat sensing pits around the mouth. They kill their prey by constriction.
REPRODUCTION AND LIFESPAN
Sexual maturity is reached at 3-4 years of age. Breeding occurs when snakes stop eating at times when the nighttime low drops below 70 degrees. Ball pythons may mate only every 2-3 years. Females after being fertilized by a male will lay 4-10 eggs depending on her size and health. After depositing the eggs, the female will guard the eggs by coiling her body around the nest. The eggs hatch after 3 months, at this time the female will leave her young and seek out food since she is weak from not eating for 3 months. Lifespan is 20-30 years. The record is held by a snake from the Philadelphia zoo that lived 47 years (it died in 1991).
Ball pythons receive their name due to the defensive tactic they employ. When threatened, they will ball up and hide their head within their huge muscular coils leaving it inaccessible to predators such as eagles and hawks. Ball pythons are threatened due to pet and skin trade.