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Black Headed Python

Appearance

The black headed python is instantly recognizable due to the namesake black head scales which extend 20 scales down the back. The rest of the body is coloured a creamy white, light brown or yellow banded with stripes of dark or orange brown running the length of the body.

This species is incredibly large attaining lengths of up to 3m (9.8ft) long. Females are generally longer than males. They can weigh up to 16kg (35lb) on average.

There are some albino black headed pythons in captivity.

They differ from other pythons in that the heat sensing pit is located under the rostral scale instead of the labial scale. The lack of a labial pit has long led to the species being seen as a venomous snake, which it is not.

Diet

The black headed python is a carnivore. Most of their diet consists of reptiles but they can also eat small mammals and birds. Most of their reptile prey is skinks but they can eat animals up to the size of a perentie (Australia’s largest lizard). They can also eat venomous snakes due to being impervious to their venom. Once prey is captured it is constricted using the coils of their body.

Due to their warmer habitat these snakes digest their food faster and will eat more frequently than snakes from colder climates.

Black headed python

Scientific Name

Aspidites melanocephalus

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Height

3m (9.8ft)

Weight

16kg (35lb)

Lifespan

30 years

Diet

Carnivorous

Black headed python

Range

Australia is the native home of the black headed python. They can be found across the north of the country across Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

Habitat

In these areas they can be found across sclerophyll forests, savanna, shruland, scrubland plains, sparsely vegetated deserts and rocky areas.

They will shelter inside of logs, termite mounds, burrows and under rocks.

Reproduction

Breeding takes place from June to July. The eggs develop inside of the mother until October or November when the eggs are laid in a protected place. Around 5 to 10 eggs will be laid around which the mother coils to keep them cool. If it gets too cold she will shiver to keep the eggs warm.

It will take 2 months of incubation for the eggs to hatch. After they emerge from their eggs the hatchlings are independent and are hunting by their second day.

Sexual maturity is achieved between the 4th and 5th year.

Behavior

Black headed pythons are nocturnal. During the day they will rest in a hiding place.

When the black headed python wants to warm up it can stick the black head out of its burrow. This keeps the rest of the body out of harm’s way while they can still warm up. When they wish to cool down they may bury the head.

This species is capable of swimming but this behavior is not often engaged in.

The only species which prey upon adult black headed pythons are dingoes and humans. Juveniles are also cannibalized by adults.

Quick facts

The black headed python is also known as the black headed rock snake and the tarpot due to their head looking like it has been dipped in tar.

References

Shea, G., Ellis, R. & Wilson, S. 2017. Aspidites melanocephalus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T13300710A13300718. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T13300710A13300718.en. Downloaded on 25 April 2020.

Australian Reptile Park - Wildlife Park Sydney & Animal Encounters Australia. 2020. Black Headed Python Habitat, Diet & Reproduction. [online] Available at: <https://reptilepark.com.au/animals/reptiles/snakes/python/black-headed-python/> [Accessed 25 April 2020].

Australia, A., 2020. Species: Aspidites Melanocephalus (Black-Headed Python). [online] Bie.ala.org.au. Available at: <https://bie.ala.org.au/species/urn:lsid:biodiversity.org.au:afd.taxon:e4a34cb0-5c71-49d6-9961-7e90f570d2b1> [Accessed 25 April 2020].

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