Ball python

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Ball python
Ball python (Python regius)

Ball python ( Python regius )

without rank: Toxicofera
Subordination : Snakes (serpentes)
Superfamily : Python-like (Pythonoidea)
Family : Pythons (Pythonidae)
Genre : Actual Pythons ( Python )
Type : Ball python
Scientific name
Python regius
( Shaw , 1802)

The ball python ( Python regius ) is a species of snake within the python family (Pythonidae). This snake inhabits the tropics of West and Central Africa and feeds on small mammals and birds. Like all members of the family, she is a non-venomous strangler. The python is at a maximum overall length of approximately 2 m, the smallest species in the genus of authentics pythons ( Python ).


The body is strong, the tail short, accounting for about 10% of the total length. The broad head is clearly set off from the neck, the muzzle is broadly rounded. Seen from above, the large nostrils on the head are clearly visible.

measurements and weight

Adult individuals usually have head-trunk lengths of 0.8 to 1.5 m and reach a maximum total length of about 2 m; the weight is 1–3 kg. Ball pythons are the smallest representatives of the genus python . Females are, on average, slightly larger and heavier than males.

Adult females caught in a study in Togo were on average 116.2 cm long (head-torso length) and weighed on average 1276 g; Males averaged 111.3 cm long and weighed an average of 1182 g. Females had a maximum head-to-trunk length of 170 cm and a weight of 3224 g; in contrast, the maximum values ​​of the males were only 140 cm and 2460 g. In this study, females were designated as adult if they were at least 95 cm long, since pregnant and therefore sexually mature females were at least this length; for males, the same body length was used as the criterion for classification as adult.

Females caught for a field study in Nigeria had an average head-to-trunk length of 97.7 cm, while males reached an average of 82.7 cm.

According to the authors, no size difference between the sexes was found in a study in Ghana , but the dimensions given suggest at least greater maximum lengths for the females there, with total lengths between 83.9 cm and 185.9 cm, with an average of 123.2 cm; Males were between 99.9 cm and 170.4 cm long with a mean of 125.2 cm.


The rostral is large and clearly set off. The internalsals are long and pointed. The anterior praefrontalia are also large and clearly highlighted. Behind it follows a band of irregularly shaped scales, which probably represent the posterior prefrontalia. The frontal is usually large and divided into two parts, but it can also be designed as a group of irregular scales of different sizes. The supraocularia are large and undivided or consist of several smaller scales.

In the side view there are a fluctuating number of Lorealia of different sizes and two to four Präocularia between the large nasal and the eye . There are three to four postocularia . The number of large supralabials can be between 10 and 11, the first four to six show deep labial pits with rather narrow, oblique slits. Either the fifth or sixth supralabial directly adjoin the eye, or between these and the eye there is a series of subocularia . The front two to three infralabials show rounded labial pits.

The number of abdominal scales ( ventral shields ) varies between 191 and 207, the number of subcaudalia between 28 and 47 and the number of dorsal rows of scales in the middle of the body between 53 and 63.

Ball python, portrait


The basic color of the body is light to dark brown. Often a more or less continuous band of large, yellowish-brown to beige-brown, round or elongated spots runs around the front quarter of the body and near the tail on the middle of the back. On the flanks, the species has large, round or long oval, mostly light-edged spots that are also colored; often with a dark center. These spots also regularly extend in the middle of the body to the middle of the back or are connected to one another there. The head shows a bright, wide eye stripe from the nostrils to the back of the head; Below is a black-brown band that extends to the corner of the snout. This is bounded downwards by another light band behind the eye. The iris is dark black-gray. The color of the ventral side is white to cream-colored.

distribution and habitat

Distribution area of ​​the ball python

The ball python is distributed over large parts of West and Central Africa. The distribution area extends from Gambia to the east to Sudan . The species is very adaptable in terms of its habitat, it populates the closed tropical rainforest as well as savannahs and agricultural areas up to the edge of settlements.


The ball python was first described in 1802 by George Shaw as " Boa Regia " . The current name Python regius was introduced in 1844 by André Marie Constant Duméril & Gabriel Bibron . So far, no subspecies have been described for the ball python.

After a molecular genetic investigation, the Tiger Python , Northern Rock Python and the Blood Python together form the sister taxon of the Ball Python .

Way of life

The species is crepuscular and nocturnal. As with most species of the genus, nothing is apparently known about this nocturnal activity or the hunting methods in the field. Ball pythons spend the day in hiding, mostly in termite mounds or rodent burrows. Young individuals like to climb in captivity, while older ball pythons tend to live on the ground. The English name "Ball Python" refers to the fact that when threatened the snake often curls up tightly, with the head inside and thus protected by the body loops.


As far as is known, ball pythons feed exclusively on small mammals and birds. In a study in the southeast of Nigeria , individuals under 70 cm in total length almost exclusively fed on nest-young and fledgling birds, while animals over 100 cm in length were found to eat almost exclusively mammals. Overall, the males' diet consisted of 70% birds, the remainder consisted of mammals; in females the proportion of birds was only 33%. However, this difference was primarily attributed to the larger average body size of the females. Among the closer determinable captured birds dominated doves (family Columbidae), under the closer determinable mammals, the True strip of grass mouse ( Lemniscomys striatus ), which belongs to the African soft rats Praomys tullbergi and other real mice (family Muridae). The results indicate that young ball pythons also predominantly live on trees (arboreal) in the open air and that, above a certain size, they increasingly live on the ground.


Ball pythons lay 3–14 eggs, the eggs are laid in the burrows of rodents or turtles. In Togo , clutches comprised 3–12 eggs, the mean clutch size was 7.7 eggs. Before oviposition, the females weighed an average of 1944 g, then 1235 g, so the clutch made up an average of 36.5% of the body mass of the females. Wild-caught eggs were creamy white, weighed on average 86 g and measured on average 6.9 × 4.2 cm. The breeding biology of the species was intensively investigated in the laboratory on wild-caught animals of unknown origin. For incubation, the female rolls up over the clutch like a turban, with the head on top and in the center. The female turns the back third of the body outwards by about 90 °, so that the eggs are partially encompassed by the belly and lie in a kind of brood pouch. In contrast to the females of some other species of the genus Python , the females did not react with muscle tremors when the ambient temperature was lowered; compared to the ambient temperature, the egg temperature was at most a few tenths of a degree higher. Apparently, the wrapping of the eggs in this species does not serve to ensure an optimal incubation temperature, but primarily to reduce the evaporation of water from the eggs and to generally protect the clutch from predators. In the laboratory, the female only left the eggs to molt and drink and did not eat. The young snakes hatched in a very narrow time interval after a breeding period of 59 to 60 days. When hatched, they weighed 50 g on average, had an average head-to-trunk length of 40 cm and a total length of 43 cm. The young snakes began to eat very variably after 20-40 days. After 6 months, her weight had more than quadrupled to an average of 207 g, the head-trunk length was now 57 cm on average, the total length 62 cm.

In Ghana, newly hatched juvenile snakes that were hatched in clutches taken from nature in a farm had very similar body dimensions. These young snakes had an average total length of 40.2 cm and weighed an average of 55.7 g.

Age and life expectancy

Information on the average and maximum ages of individuals living in the wild is unknown; For ball pythons kept in captivity, a maximum age of over 40 years is given, a maximum of 48 years.

Ball python and human

The ball python is bred and caught in large quantities for keeping in terrariums. It is kept very often due to its beauty, its comparatively small size and the low selling price. Despite its popularity, the species is by no means unproblematic as a fosterling. Mouth rot , lung diseases and diseases caused by protozoa are common in captivity ( see also snake diseases ). In particular, adult wild-caught species of the captive species often refuse to feed.

Exact figures from the total range of the species are not available, but 98,179 ball pythons were exported from 1989 to 1993 from Ghana alone , 29,935 of them to the European Union . Despite these high numbers, the species is considered to be harmless, at least in Ghana. For the agricultural area of ​​Ghana alone, the population was estimated at around 6.4 million individuals in 1997. Ball pythons are common in these agricultural areas and there probably play an important role in the regulation of rodents that are harmful to crops . In some areas of Ghana and Benin , the species is considered sacred and must not be killed, even outside of these areas the snakes are rarely killed there.

Ghana is one of the African countries that made an early effort to use the ball python in a way that was gentle on the population. In several other African countries, however, the import quotas set by the EU were exceeded so far that the EU issued an import ban on ball pythons from these countries in 1999. These are the Central African Republic , Congo , Equatorial Guinea , Gabon and Liberia .


Due to the widespread breeding management, a number of special color characteristics developed, here are some examples with their English names common to breeders:


Individual evidence

  1. ^ F. Aubret, X. Bonnet, M. Harris, S. Maumelat: Sex Differences in Body Size and Ectoparasite Load in the Ball Python, Python regius. In: Journal of Herpetology. 39, No. 2, 2005, pp. 315-320.
  2. a b L. Luiselli, FM Angelici: Sexual size dimorphism and natural history traits are correlated with intersexual dietary divergence in royal pythons (Python regius) from the rainforests of southeastern Nigeria. In: Italian Journal of Zoology. 65, 1998, pp. 183-185.
  3. a b c d e f g h i S. Gorzula, WO Nsiah, W. Oduro: Survey of the Status and Management of the Royal Python (Python regius) in Ghana. Part 1. Report for CITES, 1997.
  4. a b c d J. G. Walls: The Living Pythons. TFH Publications, 1998, p. 150 ff.
  5. cf. z. B. Godfrey C. Akani, Ikomah F. Barieenee, Dario Capizzi, Luca Luiselli: Snake communities of moist rainforest and derived savanna sites of Nigeria: biodiversity patterns and conservation priorities. In: Biodiversity and Conservation. 8, No. 5, 1999, pp. 629-642. doi: 10.1023 / A: 1008849702810
  6. ^ Python regius in The Reptile Database ; Retrieved January 9, 2011.
  7. LH Rawlings, DL Rabosky, SC Donnellan, MN Hutchinson: Python phylogenetics: inference from morphology and mitochondrial DNA. In: Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 93, 2008, pp. 603-619.
  8. ^ A b F. Aubret, X. Bonnet, R. Shine, S. Maumelat: Clutch size manipulation, hatching success and offspring phenotype in the ball python (Python regius). In: Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 78 (2), 2003, pp. 263-272. doi: 10.1046 / j.1095-8312.2003.00169.x
  9. ^ A b T. M. Ellis, Mark A. Chappell: Metabolism, temperature relations, maternal behavior, and reproductive energetics in the ball python (Python regius). In: Journal of Comparative Physiology B: Biochemical, Systemic, and Environmental Physiology. 157, No. 3, 1987, pp. 393-402. doi: 10.1007 / BF00693366
  10. Regulation (EC) No. 1968/1999 of the Commission of September 10, 1999 suspending the importation of specimens of wild animal and plant species into the Community ( Memento of April 28, 2009 in the web archive )


  • Stefan Broghammer: Python regius - Atlas of color morphs. NTV Verlag (revised and expanded), 2018, ISBN 978-3866594036 .
  • Stefan Broghammer: Ball pythons. Habitat, care and breeding. M&S Reptilien Verlag, 2004, ISBN 978-3980736817 .
  • S. Gorzula, WO Nsiah, W. Oduro: Survey of the Status and Management of the Royal Python (Python regius) in Ghana. Part 1. Report for CITES, 1997, OCLC 847029797 .

Web links

Commons : Königspython  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on January 1, 2008 .