Burmese Python Adaptations

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Burmese pythons (Python bivittatus) have evolved a number of adaptations that hobbyists must consider when devising husbandry practices. Many of these adaptations are beneficial for hobbyists, which helps explain part of the snakes' popularity. For example, Burmese pythons have evolved a cryptic color pattern, which helps them avoid the attention of predators and prey in their native Asian homeland; however, many keepers find these olive, gray and brown very attractive.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Burmese pythons are among the largest snakes in the world, reportedly reaching lengths of 25 feet and weights approaching 300 pounds, although most are much smaller. Most pets of this size would require extremely large cages. Consider, for example, that a 100-pound Labrador retriever requires thousands of square feet of space to remain healthy. However, Burmese pythons are very sedentary animals, who spend most of their lives lying in ambush or simply resting. This means that even large adults can live comfortably in cages that offer about 50- to 100-square feet of space.

Secretive Habits

Burmese pythons prefer to rest in places that make them feel secure. In the wild, these places take the form of rotten logs, rodent burrows, caves and bodies of water. Provide functional replicas of these hiding places in your snake’s cage, to ensure he feels secure. They need not look like natural items found on the jungle floor, they simply need to provide your snake with somewhere he can hide.

The best hiding spots for captive Burmese pythons are durable, lightweight and easy to clean or discard. Inverted plastic plant saucers with a door cut into the side work well, as do cardboard boxes or opaque plastic storage boxes.

Impressive Ingestion

Like many other snakes, Burmese pythons consume large, but infrequent, meals. Part of the way they accomplish this is by shrinking their digestive system and slowing their cardiac activity while fasting between meals. In contrast to a pet bird, gecko or ferrets, who require daily or every-other-day feedings, Burmese pythons will not only survive, but also grow, when fed once per week. Older individuals often maintain their body weight when fed half this often or even less frequently.

While they do require whole-animal prey, most individuals readily accept frozen-thawed rodents, rabbits or chicks, which are usually more convenient for keepers to obtain, store and offer than live feeders are. Because Burmese pythons have thermoreceptive pits, which allow them to detect the body heat of their prey, they often respond more aggressively to prey that has been warmed to body temperature.

Warning

  • Because they have evolved to subdue and consume very large prey, Burmese pythons demand respect. Always use caution whenever interacting with them, and have a partner present when handling individuals more than 8 feet in length.

Unfortunate Flexibility

As evidenced by their ability to adapt to life in captivity, Burmese pythons have developed great flexibility over time. While this is a positive adaptation for snake enthusiasts, this flexibility has allowed them to colonize many areas outside their natural range, such as the Everglades of South Florida. In these places, Burmese pythons have caused tangible harm to local food webs in the process.

Warning

  • Never release a Burmese python into the wild, and always use secure cages to prevent escapes.

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