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reticulated python

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The longest snake in the world, the reticulated python is a non-venomous python native to Southeast and South Asia.

These are big, beautiful snakes, and just because they're non-venomous doesn't mean they're not dangerous in the wrong hands. These snakes are one of the few snakes that have actually been recorded as cannibals.

Incredible Web Python Facts

  • The longest reticulated python in existence is said to be over 25 feet long.
  • He was an excellent swimmer, and many people reported seeing him at great distances.
  • In at least two reported cases, an adult was eaten by a reticulated python.
  • When Krakatoa emerged, they were among the first species to colonize.

© AZ-Animals.com

Scientific name and classification

The reticulated python is a member of the python family and is a close relative of snakes such as the Burmese python, ball python, and green tree python. Their scientific name is Malayopython reticulatus . The genus Malayopython refers to its morphological and genetic status as a sister species of the genus Python . Reticulatus is its specific name, describing its markings and color patterns, which are "reticulated."

Generic names are the subject of some controversy.

In 1801, German naturalist Johann Gottlob Theaenus Schneider described two specimens located in the Göttingen Museum. He thinks they are different species because their patterns are slightly different from each other. Schneider called them Boa rhombeata and Boa reticulata .

In later years, reticulated pythons were reclassified as Python reticulatus , Constrictor schneideri , and Python schneiderii . Further taxonomic changes occurred in the species in the early 2000s as genetic studies were completed. Scientists have proposed several other genus names, including Broghammerus and Python .

However, the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature accepts Malayopython reticulatus as its scientific name, while keeping Python reticulatus and Boa reticulata as synonyms. So it's likely to stay there until something else comes to light.

reticulated python
Reticulatus is its specific name, describing its markings and color patterns, which are "reticulated."



These snakes come in a variety of color patterns, many of which can vary based on their location. However, there are three subspecies, two of which are dwarf species that occur on the islands.

  • Asian reticulated python ( M. r. reticulatus ) – This is the nominated subspecies and is also the one with the longest snakes.
  • Kayaudi or Tanahjampean Reticulated Python (M. r. jampeanus) – You will find this subspecies at Tanahjampea in the Selayar Islands south of Sulawesi. It is a dwarf subspecies, only half the length of the Asian reticulated python.
  • Celaya reticulated python (M. r. saputai) – inhabits Celaya and nearby Sulawesi. It is also a dwarf subspecies.
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Full body shot of a lavender albino reticulated python. Isolated on white background.
The reticulated python is named for its interlocking diamond pattern.

©Nynke van Holten/Shutterstock.com


Individuals of this species hold the records for the world's longest snake and one of the three heaviest snakes. Snakes are notoriously difficult to measure, so even though there have been reports of people over 30 feet, these have never been confirmed. However, the longest scientifically measured reticulated python measured 22 feet 10 inches long and weighed 130 pounds after not eating for nearly three months. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest-lived snake is a reticulated python named Medusa, bred by its owner in Kansas City, Missouri. In 2011, it was reported that Medusa was 25 feet 2 inches tall and weighed more than 350 pounds.

Regardless of how big they can get, really big ones are very rare; most reticulated pythons don't exceed 20 feet in length.

The reticulated python is a heavy, elongated snake with a proportionately large head. Like most other boa species, it has heat-sensing pits. The pits are deep and well developed, located on the front upper and lower lips and the rear lower lip. Its eyes are usually orange or orange-red, with vertical pupils.

Their color patterns are geometric and very intricate. Along the center of its back, there are black and yellow-rimmed diamonds, and on its sides are smaller shapes, ranging from oval to triangular, with a lighter center. Most reticulated pythons have a stripe on their head that starts behind the snout and runs down the neck. There are also dark stripes that start behind the eyes and run down the back of the jaw. The belly is usually lighter in color, ranging from cream to yellow-orange. Color patterns vary widely across the reticulated python's wide geographic distribution.

Reticulated python on white background
This reticulated python shows a topline starting behind the snout and the webbed appearance of its markings.

© fivespots/Shutterstock.com

History and Evolution

The ancestors of snakes and boas were actually reptiles with lizard-like legs. They are also other aquatic reptiles. Over time, these animals found their legs less and less useful, and over millions of years of evolution, they lost them, or became degenerate. This may be due to the advantage of being very close to the ground and thus close to prey.

Boa constrictors were previously classified as boas, but modern research has shown that pythons and pythons are distinct species due to convergent evolution in different parts of the world, just as monkeys evolved differently in Africa and South America but share a common ancestor. Some of the main differences are that boas give birth to live young whereas boas lay eggs. There are also heat-sensitive points on the lip scales of pythons, and there are heat-sensitive points between the lip scales of pythons.

Reticulated pythons are also very good swimmers, which would have allowed them to migrate to other lands and islands early in their history. They then evolve into different subspecies according to the new environment.

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Reticulated python in front of white background
Reticulated pythons are excellent swimmers.



This species is well camouflaged in its environment despite its striking color patterns. This is an example of destructive coloration , which is a form of camouflage where the animal's pattern helps to break up its body contours. This pattern helps the giant snake disappear into the undergrowth and allow it to ambush its prey.

Reticulated pythons spend most of their lives alone. As a solitary animal, ambushing prey becomes easier. Like all boas, this snake likes to sit quietly until something tasty passes its path. It has large teeth that can measure up to an inch. These teeth, combined with a strong jaw and a strong body, make this snake a deadly predator. It kills its prey by constricting, then swallowing it whole. This is a fairly aggressive snake in the wild and will hiss loudly when disturbed.

The reticulated python is one of the few snakes known to prey on humans. This fact is part of what prompted the U.S. government to add it to the Lacey Act list of prohibited imports.

Those who keep reticulated pythons as pets usually don't get close to the larger snakes very often, as they can be difficult — and sometimes a bit cranky — to live with. In some states, it is illegal to possess one of these without a license.


These snakes are common across much of Southeast Asia, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. They also occur in Indonesia and the Philippines. One recorded individual has been found in mainland India, but it does not appear to be part of the breeding population there.

The reticulated python inhabits woodlands and adjacent grasslands and rainforests; it often stops near rivers and lakes. They have been reported to be found in the sewers of Singapore, Indonesia and Borneo. The swimming ability of this species is so excellent that it has been able to colonize many small islands in its range. When Krakatoa emerged, it was one of the first species to colonize the new island.

Largest Snake: Reticulated Python
The reticulated python inhabits woodlands and adjacent grasslands and rainforests; it often stops near rivers and lakes.

© Opayaza12/Shutterstock.com


The snake's diet usually includes a variety of mammals and birds. Individuals are small, about 9-13 feet long, and feed primarily on mice, other rodents, bats, and tree shrews. As they grow, reticulated pythons move on to larger prey such as Indian civets, binturongs, various primates, lorises, deer and pigs. Pythons that live near villages and cities also prey on stray cats, dogs and chickens.

Although the snake can grow large enough to swallow an adult, some people's shoulder width can cause problems for the snake. Even with shoulder width issues, these snakes got into the forest cabin and took the little ones.

Verified Attacks on Humans

Although attacks are rare, there are some well-documented instances. Here are some:

  • In 2013, a python killed a security guard near a hotel in Bali.
  • A 13-foot pet boa constrictor in Virginia Beach, Virginia , killed its owner while trying to give it medicine.
  • A 23ft python has been found with the body of a missing 54-year-old woman in its belly.
  • Another 23-foot python swallowed a 25-year-old man.
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Predators, threats and protection

They are common throughout most of their natural range. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists them as "least concerned." However, habitat destruction and overfishing for food, skin and pet trade may have reduced their numbers in some areas. These snakes have few natural predators as adults. However, juvenile birds are eaten by various raptors and carnivorous mammals; moreover, local tribes often include them as part of their diet.

Even in areas where people actively hunt reticulated pythons for food or the pet trade, numbers don't appear to be decreasing. Snakes reproduce easily and mature when young. Of course, due to the difficulty of counting snakes, their populations may be more fragmented than we currently realize.

Timor python close-up
While adults have no natural predators, juvenile pythons are eaten by a variety of raptors and carnivorous mammals.

© iStock.com/reptiles4all

Reproduction, Babies and Longevity

The only time they are likely to spend time with others of their kind is during mating season, which is February and March. Reticulated pythons spend most of their 25+ year lifespans alone. During mating season, females release pheromones that attract males. Typically, females will mate with multiple males during one mating season.

After breeding, the female finds a comfortable spot on the ground to lay 15-80 eggs. She will coil around them until they hatch. Assuming an ideal temperature of 88-90 degrees, the eggs will hatch in about 88 days. Newborns are generally at least two feet long when they hatch; they are independent when they leave the egg and mature within 2-5 years.

similar animal

  • Burmese pythons are also very large. It has a breeding population in south Florida and is wiping out local wildlife.
  • Native to Africa, rock pythons can weigh more than 200 pounds.
  • The color pattern of blood pythons is a beautiful red, which is why they get their name.

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Yes, these are the more aggressive pythons.

Yes, this is one of the few instances where a snake is big enough to do so – combined with records of it happening.

This is their pattern! Reticulated comes from Latin and means "reticulated". The complex geometric patterns exhibited by this species often resemble a network of interlocking shapes.

In the wild, they eat anything they can overpower and swallow. In captivity, most people feed them rats, rats, chickens and rabbits.

That depends. Do you have the space and money to build a proper fence? Do you have experience and a friend to help you with what will become a 15-foot muscle tube? If you're unsure about any of these, a ball python might be a better choice.