Green tree python

Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Pythonidae
Genus and Species: Morelia viridis
  • pale green snake coiled on a branch
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Green tree python

Green tree pythons range the tropical rainforests of Australia and New Guinea, both the canopy and the forest floor. Non-venomous, they lure prey by wiggling the very end of their tail.

Physical Description

These snakes have very distinct color patterns. The adult can be any one of a variety of shades of green. Most often, these snakes are distinguished by the broken, vertebral stripe of white or yellow that runs down their back. Also, there may be spots of blue, white and yellow scattered over the body. This color pattern is a helpful tool in minimizing predation, as they tend to blend well with trees and bushes in which they inhabit. Newborn green tree pythons are lemon yellow or maroon in color and do not develop green coloring for six to eight months. The tree python has a slender, laterally compressed body. Its head, on the other hand, is diamond shaped and covered with fragmented scales. It is very wide and appears disproportional to the width of the body. The hook on the end of the tail is called a caudal luring.

Size

The average length of the python is about 5 to 6 feet (1.6 to 1.8 meters), but it can grow up to 7 feet (2.2 meters). The males tend to be longer than the females.

Native Habitat

The green tree python lives in Australia and New Guinea, and on the small islands that surround New Guinea. Suitable patches of rainforests can be found scattered throughout the Cape York Peninsula in Australia.

Though usually a snake of the trees, the tree python sometimes prowls on the ground as well. They are most often found in arboreal perches in tropical rainforests, though they also live in monsoon forests, forest margins and secondary growth, or thickets of bamboo. They live at elevation from sea level to 6,000 feet (1,850 meters).

Much like the emerald tree boa, these snakes spend much of their time coiled around branches, situated so that their head lies right in the middle of their coils.

Food/Eating Habits

Green tree pythons are non-venomous, carnivorous reptiles that feed on tree lizards, birds and other small arboreal vertebrates. The adults sometimes leave the trees, feeding on terrestrial rodents as well. Their feeding is facilitated by many rows of sharp teeth, averaging one hundred teeth per individual.

Tree pythons have a very interesting method of luring their food to them. They sit very still on a branch and dangle their tail. When the prey, curious about the wiggling tail, gets close enough, they strike. They can also actively hunt their prey. They also have thermosensory pits that aid in catching warm-blooded prey.

At the Smithsonian's National Zoo, green tree pythons are fed mice and rats.

Reproduction and Development

Currently, there are no reports pertaining to reproduction in the wild, so all data are a result of captive breeding.

Breeding tends to begin because of the following factors: weather, temperature, daylight, shedding and the body weight of the female. The reproductive cycle occurs most frequently from late August to late December. During copulation the pelvic spurs, which are found in both males and females, are used to anchor the male hemipenes to the female cloaca. Typically, there are six to 30 eggs in a clutch. The female wraps her body around them and uses muscular shivers as a means of keeping the eggs warm. On average, hatching occurs 45 to 52 days after the eggs are deposited. Eggs are deposited on the ground, but within a short time of hatching, the young move to the trees for food and protection. Hatchlings are usually about 11 to 14 inches (28 to 35 centimeters) long. After hatching, they change their colors from the juvenile yellow or maroon to the adult green. On average, it takes six to eight months to change colors.

Lifespan

Green tree pythons live for about 20 years.

They are endangered in some parts of their range due to habitat destruction, the skin trade and hunting for food.