Reticulated python (Python reticulatus)
Pythons – the world’s longest snakes
13 meters (43ft) of length and 250 kg (550 lb) of weight – does such a snake really exist?
No – unfortunately there is no such snake in the world 🙂 We would have to combine characteristics of an anaconda and a reticulated python to create such a monster, yet still it would be slightly exaggerated 😉
Titanoboa – a prehistoric beast
In the Paleocene epoch (60 million years ago) a Titanoboa snake did exist, measuring 15 meters (49 ft) and reaching 1 ton of weight, being 1 meter wide (in diameter) in its largest section… However in those times, as we all know, everything was ‘slightly’ bigger – see: Dinosaurs.
Is the world’s largest snake both longest and heaviest at the same time?
Many people wonder which snake is the world’s largest snake. Answering such a question automatically brings up another question, which can be compared to a problem: which land animal is the largest, a giraffe or maybe an elephant? A definitive answer is hard to find – we therefore clarify the issue with terms: the tallest or the heaviest animal. Such doubts however do not pose a problem in relation to whales – the blue whale is definitely the largest, heaviest and longest whale out there 🙂
…back to snakes
We have to settle this issue in two categories: the longest snake and the heaviest snake. Both snakes are constrictors, yet inhabit different continents and their breeding processes differ from one another.
The heaviest snake
Undeniably, the heaviest snake is Anaconda (Eunectes) reaching even 250 kg of weight. Both anacondas and pythons are constrictors, yet contrary to the latter, female anacondas do not lay eggs, but give girth to live offspring. These snakes are viviparous.
The longest snake
The longest snakes in the world are pythons (Pythonidae family). Two species are in competition for the leading position regarding length:
- Reticulated python (Python reticulatus / Broghammerus reticulatus)
- Indian python (Python molurus)
Reticulated python (Python reticulatus / Broghammerus reticulatus)
Reticulated python is a species of the Pythonidae family. These snakes are constrictors (they are non-venomous). They do not pose a serious threat to humans, yet adult snakes are strong enough to kill even a grown man. However human attacks involving these snakes occur extremely seldom.
Areas of occurrence
South-East Asia, India, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines and Indonesia. They also inhabit the Indonesian island Sumatra.
Reticulated python is a lowland species. It usually lives below 1200 meters (3900 ft) above sea level. It prefers humid forest areas, with lush greenery, a perfect place to hide and camouflage. It can also be observed near water reservoirs (lakes, rivers) – for it is an excellent swimmer.
Reticulated python can swim both in rivers, lakes and oceans (these snakes are often observed far out at sea plus they can colonize islands.
It has no fear of humans – quite often it visits human households in search for food or attack minor livestock.
Reticulated python has a yellow, brick-red or olive-brown back striped with dark brown or black zigzag lines, crossing each other forming a net-like eyed pattern.
Reticulated python hunts mainly for mammals, less often for birds. The size of its prey ranges from a rat up to a domestic pig. Smaller snakes usually hunt for rodents. This snake also hunts for other predators – e.g. for the monitor lizards inhabiting Asian territories. Its most common prey in human households are hens, cats and stray dogs.
The largest recorded prey of those snakes are pigs weighing 60 kg (132lb)!
Snakes are adapted to swallowing prey bigger than themselves. Loose ligaments and joints allow the upper and lower jaw to stretch one from another while swallowing the victim. Snakes can swallow prey measuring up to 1/4 of their own length and around the same weight as themselves. Therefore a snake like Medusa (see below) theoretically could devour an adult human…
These snakes use a hunting style typical for constrictors – when a victim comes into their vicinity they grab and wrap around it, crushing the prey causing suffocation. In reality they squeeze the coils of their bodies only to such a degree which causes death of suffocation – rarely to literally crush the victim or break its bones.
There are several documented cases of reticulated python abducting and strangling small children to death
Female reticulated python lays from 15 to 80 eggs, which are brooded upon for about 88 days. Baby snakes are usually from 60 to 75 cm (24 – 30 in) long at birth. Their weight ranges from 110 – 170 g (0.243 – 0.375 lb). They grow about 60 cm each year, although many snakes may reach 180 cm (71 in) after the first year. After 4-5 years the tempo of gains gradually decreases to about 30 cm (12 in) a year. The maximum lifespan of these snakes is 21 years.
Guinness World Record – longest snake, 2013 edition
Currently the longest snake living in captivity is a reticulated python gracefully named Medusa. Medusa is 767 cm (25ft 2 in) long and weighs 158.76 kg (350 lb). Medusa lives in the Haunted House, or alternatively – The Edge Of Hell in Kansas City, Missouri. In 2011 it was 9 years old and still growing…
However one must bear in mind that this snake is held in captivity and does not have the slightest problem acquiring food, which is amply provided by its keepers, for it is a great attraction. Snakes living in the wild which have to hunt for their food, rather do not reach such a size. A similar issue was described considering Harpy eagles, hence our doubts on the matter of a 13-meter (43ft) skeleton, allegedly found in Colombia.
Reticulated python – size
- Length: 3-6 m, longest recorded 9.76 m (32 ft); allegedly a 13-meter (42ft 8in) skeleton was found). Those snakes rarely exceed 6 meters (19ft 8in) of length.
- Weight: above 100 kg (220 lb), heaviest recorded: 158.76 kg (350 lb)
Reticulated python – interesting facts
- The longest snake ever to live on Earth was a now extinct, living in the Paleocene epoch (about 60-58 million years ago) Titanoboa snake.
- Titanoboa measured from 12 to 15 meters (39ft – 49 ft) of length and its weight reached 1100 kg (2425 lb). Interestingly, Titanoboa was 100 cm (3.3 ft) wide (in diameter) in its largest section…