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Green tree python (Morelia viridis)

Green tree python ( Morelia viridis )

Superordinate : Scale lizards (Lepidosauria)
Order : Scale reptiles (Squamata)
without rank: Toxicofera
Subordination : Snakes (serpentes)
Superfamily : Python-like (Pythonoidea)
Family : Pythons
Scientific name
Fitzinger , 1826

The Pythons (Pythonidae; give a wiki. Πύθων python ; singular of , general language and the Python) are a family of snakes from the superfamily of Pythonoidea . Due to their physical characteristics, they have long been combined with the boa snakes as " giant snakes ". Current genetic studies, on the other hand, cast doubt on a direct relationship between the two families. In relation to family or subfamily, one also speaks of pythons . In a narrower sense, the members of the genus are labeled "pythons" Actual pythons ( Python ) meant.


The pythons are inhabitants of the Old World , where they are found mainly in Africa , South and Southeast Asia and Australia . The distribution areas are mainly between the tropics : The northern tropic is reached by the two Asians Python molurus and Python bivittatus , in Africa one species lives, in Australia several south of the southern tropic. In the Miocene pythons also lived in Europe.

Alligator fighting a dark tiger python in the Everglades

For several years, the dark tiger python has been established as a neozoon in Florida through illegal releases .


The smallest species of the genus Southern Pythons ( Antaresia ), the Perth dwarf python ( Antaresia perthensis ), is only about 40-70 centimeters long. Some species of the genus of the actual python ( python ) and malayopython are among the largest snakes in the world with secured maximum lengths of over six meters.

All pythons have special sensory organs located in pit-like depressions in the snout area, which are known as labial pits . With the help of these labial pits they can perceive infrared radiation and consequently hunt in complete darkness. The black-headed pythons ( Aspidites ) seemed to make an exception to this rule , but these representatives should each have a pit per head side at the tip of the snout, which is protected by the rostral scale and is therefore not visible from the outside. This is supported by the result of a kinship analysis on a molecular genetic basis, which shows the black-headed pythons not, unlike the results of morphology-based analyzes, as rather original or even the most original representatives of the pythons, but as one of the most strongly derived taxa (see systematics ). However, a strongly derived position could also be reconciled with a complete secondary reduction of the labial pits.


Pythons are non-toxic and kill their prey by being entangled. They usually feed on warm-blooded animals , that is, birds and mammals. The size of the prey depends on the size of the snake. Smaller pythons prey on small rodents such as rats, while larger pythons can be the size of a dog or goat. In Indonesia individual cases are documented in which a very large python has devoured an adult human.


Pythons are oviparous , i.e. , in contrast to the ovoviviparous Boidae, they lay eggs. Female pythons lay two to over 100 eggs, depending on the species. The females practice a special form of brood care. They lie in loops around their clutch until the young are hatched. It can be shown that the temperature inside the fabric is above the outside temperature. A number of ways create heat from trembling muscles.


In the past, due to physical characteristics, the pythons were grouped together with the boa snakes (Boinae) and the sand boas ( Erycinae) families, typically as strangler snakes , in the superfamily of the giant snake-like , but current genetic studies refute this close relationship. The systematics of snakes has not yet been conclusively clarified, but several studies agree that the closest relatives of the python snakes (Pythonidae) are the pointed head python family (Loxocemidae) and the Xenopeltidae family . Together they form the superfamily Pythonoidea. The two families Loxocemidae and Xenopeltidae were previously a group basal to the giant snakes, for which Lee et al. 14 describes morphological differences. Studies have yet to show which of these differences are still valid for the new grouping.

The family Pythonidae itself comprises a total of 40 species in eight genera:

The genus Python is the most species-rich. The genera Malayopython and Simalia were only identified by Reynolds et al. introduced.

The following cladogram shows the internal systematics of the pythons with the earth snakes and the pointed head python as the outer group :




 Pointed-head pythons (Loxocemidae)


 Actual Pythons ( Python )




 Diamond pythons ( Morelia )


 Southern pythons ( Antaresia )


 Water pythons ( liasis )


 Amethyst pythons ( Simalia )


 Black-headed pythons ( Aspidites )



Protection status

All Pythonidae are listed in Appendix B of the European Species Protection Ordinance . The importation of - including dead - specimens of these species into the EU is therefore prohibited, unless prior approval has been granted; any marketing activity, including the offer to buy or sell, is also prohibited, unless the responsible nature conservation authority can be proven that the product is of proper origin. It can be kept without a permit.

According to the German Federal Species Protection Ordinance , the keeping of these species, which are particularly protected within the meaning of the Federal Nature Conservation Act, with information on their origin, identification, location, etc. a. to notify the competent authority immediately and to be linked to personal reliability, sufficient expertise, facilities that are safe from escape and compliance with the standards of species-appropriate husbandry; only specimens of the ball python are exempted from the notification requirement, as these were bred in Europe in large numbers.

Python molurus , the light tiger python , on the other hand, is listed in Appendix A of the European Species Protection Ordinance and may not be imported, kept, transported or kept without a permit.

See also


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wulf D. Schleip and Mark O'Shea: Annotated checklist of the recent and extinct pythons (Serpentes, Pythonidae), with notes on nomenclature, taxonomy, and distribution . In: Zookeys . tape 66 , 2010, p. 29-80 , doi : 10.3897 / zookeys.66.683 .
  2. ^ A b Guido Westhoff, Shaun P. Collin: A new type of infrared sensitive organ in the python Aspidites sp. 6th World Congress of Herpetology, August 17–22, 2008, Manaus, Brazil, Abstracts of Papers ( online ( Memento from July 6, 2011 in the Internet Archive ))
  3. ^ Arnold G. Kluge: Aspidites and the phylogeny of pythonine snakes. Records of the Australian Museum, Supplement. No. 19, 1993, pp. 1-77, doi: 10.3853 / j.0812-7387.19.1993.52
  4. ^ A b c d R. Graham Reynolds, Matthew L. Niemiller, Liam J. Revell: Toward a Tree-of-Life for the boas and pythons: Multilocus species-level phylogeny with unprecedented taxon sampling. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. Volume 71, 2014, pp. 201-213, doi: 10.1016 / j.ympev.2013.11.011
  5. One case each in 2017 and 2018, both on the island of Sulawesi, see Python devours women in Indonesia., June 15, 2018, accessed June 15, 2018.
  6. Michael SY Lee, Andrew F. Hugall, Robin Lawson and John D. Scanlon: Phylogeny of snakes (Serpentes): combining morphological and molecular data in likelihood, Bayesian and parsimony analyzes . In: Systematics and Biodiversity . tape 5 , 2007, p. 371-389 , doi : 10.1017 / S1477200007002290 .
  7. The Reptile Database: Higher Taxa in Extant Reptiles - Ophidia (Serpentes) - Snakes.
  8. Michael SY Lee and John D. Scanlon: Snake phylogeny based on osteology, soft anatomy and ecology . In: Biological Reviews . tape 77 , 2002, p. 333-401 , doi : 10.1017 / S1464793102005924 .
  9. ^ Pythonidae in The Reptile Database
  10. Art. 2 Paragraph 2 and Art. 8 Paragraph 5 Regulation (EC) No. 338/97
  11. Appendix 5 of the BArtSchV on the species exempted from the notification requirement of Section 7 (2) BArtSchV; to the keeping conditions § 7 Abs. 1

Web links

Commons : Pythons (Pythonidae)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Python  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations