masthead2b
 

The Reticulated Python, Malayopython, Clade

Boa reticulata Schneider 1801
Boa rhombeata Schneider 1801
Boa Phrygia Shaw 1802
Coluber Javanicus Shaw 1802
Python Schneideri Merrem 1820
Python reticulatus — Fitzinger 1826
Morelia reticulatus — Welch 1988
Malayopython reticulatus - Graham Reynolds et al. 2014

Python reticulatus jampeanus Auliya et al. 2002
Python reticulatus jampeanus — De Lang and Vogel 2005
Broghammerus reticulatus jampeanus — Rawlings et al. 2008

Malayopython reticulatus jampeanus - Graham Reynolds et al. 2014

Broghammerus reticulatus saputrai (Auliya et al. 2002)
Python reticulatus saputrai — De Lang and Vogel 2005
Broghammerus reticulatus saputrai — Rawlings et al. 2008

Malayopython reticulatus jampeanus saputrai - Graham Reynolds et al. 2014

 

The distribution of M. reticulatus. The question mark denotes a locality of questionable occurance. Localities based on literature records and museum specimens.

Taxonomy: Currently three subspecies are recognized. This will likely change but for now I will follow this arrangement. This account focuses on the nominate race, M. r. reticulatus unless otherwise noted. The other two races are smaller in size.

Malayopython reticulatus reticulatus (Schneider 1801)
Syntypes: Plates 62 (“Orient”) and 79 (“mountains of Japan”) 80 (“Nova Hispania”) in Seba (1734). Neotype:  ZFMK 32378 designated by Auliya et al. (2002).
Type locality: Restricted to Rengit, West Malaysia by Auliya et al. (2002)

Malayopythonreticulatus jampeanus Auliya et al. 2002:208
Holotype: ZFMK 73475
Type Locality: Tanahjampea Island, Indonesia.

Distribution. It is known only from the type locality and uses deforested areas as well as swamp forests (Auliya et al., 2002; de Lang and Vogel, 2005).

Size. Auliya et al. (2002) and de Lang and Vogel (2005) suggest that it does not exceed 2 m in length. However, it will grow larger in captivity.

Malayopython reticulatus saputrai Auliya et al. 2002:207).
Holotype ZFMK 73473. Type locality Selayer Island, Indonesia.

Size. de Lang and Vogel (2005) report that it reached 4 m in length.

This snake appears to be restricted to Selayar Island and the extreme south of Sulawesi’s Southwest Peninsula. It apparently is a swamp forest and cave dwelling form and feeds primarily on bats.

 

Well before Johann Gottlob Schneider described Boa reticulata in 1801 stories and specimens of large East Indian pythons found their way to Europe. Schneider based his description of Boa reticulata on a specimen with 322 ventral scales and 76 paired subcaudal scales as well as illustrations in Albert Seba’s Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri published in 1734 and 1735. The specimen is now presumed lost thus the only remaining artifact is the illustration. Seba was a pharmacist in Amsterdam who purchased natural history objects from sailors. The collection became so well known that Peter the Great purchased it in 1717 to form the core of the Russian national collection. Seba, being the consummate collector he was, immediately started to amass a second collection. After his death in 1736 the collection was sold at auction. Parts of it are now scattered in the natural history collections of Berlin, Leiden, London, and Paris.
Species concepts in the 18 and 19th centuries were not well developed and after Schneider described Boa reticulata on page 264, he described Boa rhombeata on page 266 based upon another now missing specimen and Seba’s illustrations. A year later, based upon another of Seba’s plates, George Shaw described Boa phrygia on page of his General Zoology and in the same book, 107 pages later described Coluber javanicus. All of these names are now placed in the synonymy of Boa reticulata Schneider. In 1820, Blasius Merrem proposed the name Python Schneiderii as a replacement name for Boa reticulata Schneider, and John Gray used the combination Python reticulatus in 1842. Gray’s name stuck for more than a century. However, without explanation Kenneth Welch (1988) suggested reticulatus belonged in the Australasian genus Morelia, and used the combination Morelia reticulatus. Undoubtedly the reason for Welch’s reassignment was the morphological similarity of the reticulated python to members of that genus.
 

Distribution and Habitat: The Reticulated Python is endemic to South and Southeast Asia. It reaches its most western distribution on the mainland in northeastern India’s Arunachal Pradesh where it is present in Mouling National Park (about 29ºN 95ºE) and it ranges eastward into Myanmar, southward to peninsular Malaysia and eastward through all of the Indochinese Peninsula. Despite its presence in northern Vietnam, it seems to be absent from southern mainland China. In Indonesia and eastern Malaysia it is ubiquitous throughout the islands and ranges as far east as the Halmahera Island and the Tanimbar Islands. In the Philippines it is also found on most, if not all islands including the Batanes Islands (Itbayat Island about 21ºN 121ºE) according to O’Shea (2007).

India
The western edge of the distribution of the reticulatus complex is uncertain. Deoras (1965) reported it near Ratanpur in Madhya Pradesh (about 22º21’N 82º17’E). It has been documented in Arunachal Pradesh’s Mouling National Park (about 29ºN 95ºE) and this most likely represents the extreme northwestern edge of its range. This species complex is also present in the Nicobar Island (Whitaker and Whitaker, 1983; Whitaker and Captain, 2004) which are politically part of India but biogeographically are Southeast Asian.

Bangladesh
Kahn (1982) suggested reticulatus is restricted to Chittagong and Sylhet regions of the country. And, Islam and Islam (1997) consider the species in the forests of Ramu and Ukhia in the southeastern part of the country.

Myanmar
Salter (1983) considered reticulatus common in all parts of the county.  Wall (1926) reported it from: Martaban, Pegu Yomas, Taninthari, Tavoy, and Rangoon. Auliya (2006) also reports it from the Kyatthin Wildlife Sanctuary about 23ºN Latitude.

Thailand
Cox (1991, 1997) and Cox et (1998) consider it widespread throughout Thailand to 1500 m.
Cox (1997) discusses the Reticulated Python in urban Bangkok. He found one that was 4.8 m long and recovered recent hatchlings from under human dwellings. Evidence that they are indeed reproducing in the city was obvious. As vegetation is replaced by concrete he suggests that the snakes will become less common. DeHass (1950) suggested it did not go north of 18ºN, however given its distribution in neighboring countries it seems likely that it also occurs north of this line in Thailand. Inger and Colwell reported it from 14º 30’N and 101º 55’ E in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. Chan’ard et al (1999) reports it from Khao Lak Lamru National Park in Phangnga Province between 8º and 9º N and Puhket Island. I have found it near Hat Yai, at the Ton Nga Chang Waterfall Park (about 7ºN).

Laos
Deuve (1970) considered it present throughout the country but more common in the central and southern provinces. Stuart (1999) reported its presence in a markets in the vicinity of Viangchan (=Vientianne) near the border with Thailand.

Cambodia
St. Girons, 1972 reported it from Trapeang Chan, north of 12ºN. Davidson (2006) reports a large population of this snake in the core area of the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve.

Vietnam
Campden-Main (1970) considered reticulatus common in south Vietnam, but also reports it from about 21ºN north, near Hanoi. Nguyen et al. (2009) provide a lengthy list of Vietnam localities suggesting that it is widespread in country.

China
Walls (1998) reports it as present in China, however Wall (1903), Stanley (1914), Pope (1935) suggest its presence in China is the result of human transport. Auliya (2003) reports a Naturalis (Leiden Museum) specimen that was collected in 1864 at “Emoy” (probably Amoy) which was China’s major port in the 19th Century.

Peninsular (West) Malaysia
It is found throughout the country. It has been reported from Kedah, Perak, and the Tasek Bera wetlands near Bahau. Auliya reports a voucher specimen (ZFMK 70560) that documents it in the city of Kuala Lumpur. It also occurs on offshore islands such as Penang, Langkawi, and Tioman (Boulenger, 1893, Barker and Barker, 1997; Grismer et al. 2006). Cantor (1847) describes one being shot at sea from a ship 3 or 4 miles from shore.

Singapore
Boulenger (1893), DeHaas (1950) Groombridge and Luxmoore (1991), and Lim and Lim (1992) report it as present on this island. And, Sworder (1923) wrote, “In spite of its large size this snake is still far from rare on Singapore Island. Several specimens have recently been captured within the Municipal limits.”

Indonesia

Bali
McCoy (2006) describes the habitat as ranging from rainforests and monsoon forests to agricultural land.

Java
Hodges considered reticulatus widely distributed on the island. It has been reported from many specific localities on Java proper as well as many offshore satellite island. And, Hoesel (1959) considered P. r. reticulatus to be more arboreal than P. m. bivittatus. Dammerman (1948) noted that no snakes were found on the Krakatau island during an investigation in May, 1908, but that Brun visited the island in September of 1908 and found a “…big boa constrictor…” The snakes were present on the islands from 1917 through 1921 because a resident complained about them feeding on his chickens. Reticulated pythons are expert island colonists. Rawlinson et al. (1990) summarizes their history of colonizing the Krakatua Islands in Indonesia. The eruption of the Krakatau volcano in 1888 obliterated all terrestrial life on the islands; by 1908 the presence of a reticulated python was documented on the remnant island of Rakata. Centuries after the historic eruption breeding populations were documented on Rakata, Sertung, and Panjang islands. As rat (Rattus rattus and R. timomanicus) numbers increased on these islands so did the snakes. Its point of dispersal was probably the island Sebesi, a distance of about 7.5 miles to the nearest point on Sertung. It is also important to note that while reticulated pythons are usually associated with forests, that the islands at this time were mostly covered with grass, and the habitat was very open at many locations. Dammerman (1948) reported the habitat as grass jungle and virgin forest, but also noted its presence in treeless landscapes.

Sumatra
Reticulated Pythons are widespread on this island and may only be absent from the higher elevations. Boulenger (1920) reports a specimen from 2450 feet in the Korinichi Valley, West Sumatra.

Borneo
The Reticulated Python is probably found throughout Kalimantan, Indonesia; Brunei, and the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah.

Sulawesi
This python is common and widespread on Sulawesi according to de Lang and Vogel (2005). They describe the habitat as ranging from primary and secondary rainforest in lowland and into mountainous regions to elevations of 1300 m. The snake also uses rocky scrub land, swamps and agro-ecosystems. It also occurs in villages and cities.

Lesser Sundas
This island group extends from Lombok to Wetar and were formed by two island arcs. The Reticulated Python has been reported from Lombok, Sumbawa, Sumba, Flores, and Timor (DeHaas, 1950; de Rooji, 1917). The southernmost edge of the range is probably Sumba Island (9º 50’S 119ºE), Indonesia. The most southeast edge of its distribution is likely the Indonesia Island of Kepulan Tanimbar (about 7º 33’S 131º29’E) (Kopstein, 1927).

Philippines
Reticulated Pythons are widespread in the Philippines and island records are given by Taylor (1922) and Leviton (1963). Habitat ranges from primary rainforest to agro ecosystems (Brown and Acala, 1964). The northeastern edge of the range is most likely Iybayat Island (about 20º 30’N 121º56’E) north of Luzon, but closer to Taiwan (O’Shea, 2007).

The Maluku Islands (Moluccas)
Many, if not all, of the 66 islands are inhabited by this python. Boulenger (1883), deRooji (1917), Kopstein (1925), DeHaas (1950) and Barker and Barker (1997) report localities within this island group for this snake.

Size: The largest know snake that can be verified was documented by Barton and Allen (1961) and what makes this record unique is that they have several data points because it was a captive snake measured several times. Colossus, a female Reticulated Python (Malayopython reticulatus) housed in the Pittsburgh Zoo from August 10, 1949 until its death. When the snake was obtained by the zoo it was 22 feet (6.7 m), on June 4, 1951 it was 23 feet 3 inches (7.1 m) (growing 15 inches or 0.38 m in 22 months). She weighed 295 pounds (133.8 kg) in February of 1954 after fasting for 4.5 months at a measured length of 27 feet, 2 inches (8.28 m). This was 47 inches (1.2 m) of growth in 32.5 months (or a growth rate of 36.6 mm per month). On November 15, 1956 she was measured at 28 feet 6 inches (8.7 m), growing 16 inches (0.4 m) in 33 months. Her average growth rate was 10.75 inches (0.27 m) per year well after she had sexually matured. Colossus would eat only pigs (refusing rabbits, chickens and ducks) and during her 11 years of captivity she ate 1991 pounds (903 kg) of pork.

On October 22, 2002 Samantha, a Reticulated Python believed to be the largest snake in captivity at that time died of old age at the Bronx Zoo. She lived at the zoo from 1993 until her death in 2002. She was collected near Samarinda, Borneo at 21 feet (6.4 m) and 175 pounds (79.4 kg). Her birth date was estimated to be 1970. Upon her death she was 26 feet (7.9 m) and weighed 275 pounds (124.7 kg) (Reuters 10/22/02).

Shine et al. (1999) studied Reticulated Pythons in Sumatra and found that snakes from northern Sumatra have a larger body size at sexual maturity and feed at a higher rate than those at the southern study area, but the females tend to be smaller. The southern study area was more disturbed by agriculture (oil palm and rubber plantations) but produced the largest snakes. They attribute this to the northern population feeding on rats and domesticated chickens. Humans have made food more available to reticulated pythons and thus they prosper by feeding on human commensals.

The table below lists some sizes reported in the literature for this species.

Length

Weight

Method of Measurement

Reference

 

 

 

m= measured h= hearsay

 

(6.90 m)

22 ft. 8”

 

m

Anon. (1903:149)

(7.31 m)

24 ft 10”

 

m

Anon. (1930:89)

 

21 ft 3”

 

m

Anon. (1930:89)

(6.01 m)

20 ft

 

h

Flower (1899:655)

7.8 m

25ft 8”

248 lbs

m

Hagenbeck, (1910:189)

(8.83 m)

32 ft

 

h

Cross in Mayer (1920:845)

(8.68 m)

28 ft 6’

320 lbs

m

Barton and Allen

(10.05 m)

33 ft

 

m?

Raven (1946:38-39)
SEE DISCUSSION
Elsewhere on this website.

(6.01-7.92 m)

20-26 ft

 

h

Ridley (1899:196)

 

40 ft

 

?

Ridley (1899:196)

 

19 ft 2”

200 lbs

?

Anon. 1901:781

(8.22-8.53 m)

27-28 ft

 

h

Smith (1943:110)

(7.56 m)

24 ft 10”

252 lbs

m

Barker and Barker (1997:53)

(7.26 m)

23 ft 10”

200 lbs

m

Barker and Barker (1997:53)

  24 ft 300 lbs
m
Gray, 2008

9.14 m

~30 ft

 

H, Estimate, Penang

Cantor, 1847:57

6.95 m

 

59 kg

m

Fredriksson, 2005

 

25 ft 8’

248 lbs

?

Hagenbeck (1910:189)

(7.62 m)

25 ft

305 lbs

m

Pope (1961:163)

 

26 ft

275 lbs

m

Anon. Reuters, Nov 24, 2002

 

22 ft 6”

~375 lbs

M (under anesthesia)

Worcester (1898:115) (Palawan)

9 m

 

 

 

Sody, 1941

6.55 m

21 ft 6”

200 lbs

m

Ussher (1979:180)

8.2m

 

 

M (near Taiping, Perak)

Wray in Flower, 1899:655

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