Platinum Reticulated Pythons (Python reticulatus)
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The Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus) is a species of python found in Southeast Asia. Adults can grow to over 28 feet (8.7 m) in length but normally grow to an average of 10-20 feet. They are the world's longest snakes and longest reptile, but are not the most heavily built. Like all pythons, they are nonvenomous constrictors and normally not considered dangerous to humans. Although large specimens are powerful enough to kill an adult human, attacks are only occasionally reported.
An excellent swimmer, Python reticulatus has been reported far out at sea and has colonized many small islands within its range. The specific name is Latin meaning net-like, or reticulated, and is a reference to the complex color pattern.
The largest individual ever accurately measured was Colossus, a female kept at the Highland Park Zoo (now Pittsburgh Zoo) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during the 1950s and early 1960s, with a peak length of 28.5 feet (8.7 m). When she died, April 15, 1963, her body was deposited in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. At that time she was measured and found to be significantly shorter than the measurements previously published by Barton and Allen. Apparently they had been adding a few extra feet to the measurements to compensate for "kinks", since it is virtually impossible to completely straighten an extremely large live python. Too large to be preserved with formaldehyde and then stored in alcohol, the specimen was instead prepared as a disarticulated skeleton. The hide was sent to a lab to be tanned, and unfortunately it was either lost or destroyed.
Numerous reports have been made of larger snakes, but since none of these have been measured by a scientist nor have the specimens been deposited at a museum, they must be regarded as unproven and probably erroneous. In spite of a standing offer of $50,000 for a live, healthy snake over 30 feet long by the New York Zoological Society, no attempt to claim this reward has ever been made.
The color pattern is a complex geometric pattern that incorporates different colors. The back typically has a series of irregular diamond shapes which are flanked by smaller markings with light centers. In this species' wide range, much variation of size, color, and markings commonly occurs.
In zoo exhibits the color pattern may seem garish, but in a shadowy jungle environment amid fallen leaves and debris it allows them to virtually disappear. Called a disruptive coloration, it protects them from predators and helps them to catch their prey.
Found in Southeast Asia from the Nicobar Islands, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, east through Indonesia and the Indo-Australian Archipelago (Sumatra, the Mentawai Islands, the Natuna Islands, Borneo, Sulawesi, Java, Lombok, Sumbawa, Sumba, Flores, Timor, Maluku, Tanimbar Islands) and the Philippines (Basilan, Bohol, Cebu, Leyte, Luzon, Mindanao, Mindoro, Negros, Palawan, Panay, Polillo, Samar, Tawi-Tawi). The original description does not include a type locality. Restricted to "Java" by Brongersma (1972).
Three sub-species have been proposed, but are not recognized by ITIS. The color and size can vary a great deal between the sub-species described. Geographical location is a good key to establishing the sub-species, each one has a distinct geographical range.
The python lives in rain forests, woodland and nearby grassland. It is also associated with rivers and is found in areas with nearby streams and lakes. An excellent swimmer, it has even been reported far out at sea and has consequently colonized many small islands within its range. During the early years of the twentieth century it is said to have been common even in busy parts of Bangkok, sometimes eating domestic animals.
Their natural diet includes mammals and occasionally birds. Small specimensâ€”up to 3â€“4 meters (10â€“14 ft) longâ€”eat mainly rodents such as rats, whereas larger individuals switch to prey such as Viverridae (e.g. civets and binturongs), and even primates and pigs. Near human habitation, they are known to snatch stray chickens, cats and dogs on occasion. Among the largest, fully documented prey items to have been taken are a half-starved Sun Bear of 23 kilograms that was eaten by a 6.95 m (23 ft) specimen and took some ten weeks to digest, as well as pigs of more than 60 kg (132 lb). As a rule of thumb, these snakes seem able to swallow prey up to Â¼ their own length, and up to their own weight. As with all pythons, they are ambush hunters, waiting until prey wanders within strike range before seizing it in their coils and killing via constriction.
Oviparous, females lay between 15 and 80 eggs per clutch. At an optimum incubation temperature of 31â€“32Â°C (88â€“90 Â°F), the eggs take an average of 88 days to hatch. Hatchlings are at least 2 feet (61 cm) in length.
Increased popularity in the pet trade is due largely to increased efforts in captive breeding and selectively bred mutations such as the "albino" and "tiger" strains. They can make good captives, but keepers should have previous experience with such large constrictors to ensure safety to both animal and keeper. Although their interactivity and beauty draws much attention, some feel they are unpredictable. They do not attack humans by nature, but will bite and possibly constrict if they feel threatened, or mistake a hand for food. While not venomous, large pythons can inflict serious injuries, sometimes requiring stitches.
The huge size and attractive pattern of these snakes has made them favorite zoo exhibits, with several individuals claimed to be above 20 feet in length and more than one claimed to be the largest in captivity. However, due to their huge size, immense strength, aggressive disposition, and the mobility of the skin relative to the body, it is very difficult to get exact length measurements on a living reticulated python, and weights are rarely indicative, as captive pythons are often obese. Claims made by zoos and animal parks are sometimes exaggerated, such as the claimed 49-foot snake in Indonesia which was subsequently proven to be less than 22 feet. For this reason, scientists do not accept the validity of length measurements unless performed on a dead or anaesthetized snake which is later preserved in a museum collection.
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