African Rock Python
African Rock Python
The African rock python. It is Domain: Eukarya. Domain is the highest taxonomic rank of organisms, higher than a kingdom. The African rock python falls under Eukarya because it is a multicellular organism composed of eukaryotic cells. It is Kingdom: Anamalia. Kingdom is the second highest rank. It falls under Anamalia for obvious reasons. It is Phylum: Chordata. Phylum is the primary division of the plant or animal kingdom. It is Class: Reptilia. Class is a group of related plants or animals, in the general classification of plants and animals. The African rock python falls under Reptilia because it has a characteristic of being cold-blooded.
It is Order: Squamata. Order is a taxonomic rank used in classifying organisms, generally below the class, and comprised of families sharing a set of similar nature or characteristics. The African rock python shed their skin periodically and have very flexible jaws, which are characteristics of Squamata. It is Family: Pythonidae. Organisms belonging to the same family would have evolved from the same ancestors and share relatively common characteristics. The Pythonidae family is a family of non-venomous snakes who are powerful constrictors that wrap around their prey to kill it.
This family includes the African rock python. It’s Genus: Python. In binomial nomenclature, the genus is used as the first word of a scientific name. It’s Species: Python sebae. Species is the second part of the name is the binomial nomenclature. The name Python Sebae was derived from the Greek mythology, which refers to a huge serpent. The largest snake in Africa and the third largest snake in the world, the African rock python, have long bulky bodies. Snakes are considered vertebrates because they have a backbone, a closed circulatory system, where the heart and blood vessels are continuously contracting.
The blood never leaves the blood vessels. The outer layer of the epidermis is thick and lacks glands. It is characterized by keratin scales. Ranging anywhere from an average size of 18 to 20 feet long, but can grow up to 28 feet long! The females are larger than the males and can weigh almost 300lbs. However the size may vary according to their natural habitat. It is amazing to note that in areas where there is a higher population, the size of the African rock python has been smaller in size, as compared to areas where human habitat is less; the African Rock Python snake is much bigger in ize.
African Rock Pythons are often tan with brown spots that have black outlines. This helps them camouflage in the environment, and gives them an advantage to hunt their prey or hide from potential predators. This is considered cryptic camouflage. A V-shape noticeably marks the face. This python is non-venomous, and has teeth curved inward to help pull in prey when eating. Like all pythons, the scales of the African rock python are small and smooth, and those nearby the lips control heat-sensitive pits, which are used to distinguish warm-blooded prey, even in the dark.
Pythons also possess two functioning lungs, unlike more “advanced” snakes which have only one, and also have small, visible pelvic spurs, believed to be the remnants of hind limbs. It is said that snakes are evolved from lizards that burrowed in tunnels or in water, and the use of hind legs made it harder for them to burrow. Over time there legs started to grow shorter and eventually becoming useless, leaving behind what is now known as there spurs, located right before the anus. The rate of this evolution occurred at a slow constant pace over millions of years.
This evidence of evolution would be considered phylogeny, the evolutionary relationship among species. African rock pythons reside in sub-Saharan Africa, but prefer evergreen forests or moist, open savannahs. You will always most likely find an African rock python associated with water and often are found near rivers and lakes. The African rock python has recently been found on the loose in Florida. Not many know how the massive snake happened to come about in Florida. Many believe they were released purposely, because the owner or breeder was ill-equipped for the intensity of this particular snake.
A frightening factor has arisen since the African rock python has inhabited the south Florida territory. The Burmese python has already established foothold in the Everglades. The fear of a new “Super Snake” breed arising if the Burmese and African rock python were to mate, strikes fear that a hybrid python may be on the rise in the Everglades. Knowing that the African rock is bigger and more aggressive than the Burmese python which is about 17 feet long, the “super snake” would surpass that length. It would not only hamper the ecosystem but would also be dangerous for families with small children.
The python hunts by smelling food with its tongue, flicking it up and down. Although the African rock python are already powerful on land, this brainy serpent employs an even more impressive tactic underwater. Ever adaptable, the pythons that reside near water thrive on fish. Much older snakes can use the water to its advantage and hunt greater prey. They can remain under water and every 30 minutes come up to take a discrete breath. It uses heat-sensing organs, called photoreceptors to detect warm-blooded prey. Because the African rock python is non-venomous it squeezes its food.
Every time the prey exhales, the python constricts a little more, so that inhalation becomes increasingly difficult. Death is caused mostly by cardiac arrest rather than myths or urban legends articulating that their prey was crushed to death. African rock pythons, as well as every python, are carnivores. Their diet consists of large rodents, monkeys, antelopes, crocodiles, dogs, goats, and poultry . They have strong acids inside their stomach which helps them to digest their food. It is rare of the African rock python hunting for humans.
After eating a large animal, the python needs no food for a long time, and may rest for weeks. In this engorged state, it is most vulnerable to attack by predators. In most cases if the snake feels threatened it will regurgitate the food and escape to shelter. African Rock Python becomes sexually active as early as 3-5 years old and reproduce during the spring. The female snake lets out a pheromone which attracts the male snake to mate. During the breeding season both the sexes fast and the female continues the fast till the eggs are hatched. African rock pythons fall under the subclass: protheria.
They are oviparous, meaning they reproduce by laying eggs, which hatch outside the mother’s body. Surprisingly the python shows distinct mother instincts by coiling around the eggs, protecting them from predators, and incubating the eggs to help with development until they hatch, which is about 90 days. Which makes this species rather interesting as parenting is quite a foreign concept to reptiles. Hatchlings are between 18–24 inches in length, and have temper when born. Some are known to strike when hatching. They are nearly identical to adults, except with more distinguishing colors.
African Rock Python can live up to 12 years in wild however they can live up to 30 years in captivity. It is said that the African rock python is does not run the risk of extinction, but is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). There is a high demand for the python’s skin and meat in the market, mostly to make leather, belts and purses. Exporting of these exotic animals is known to be illegal. Some of the African rock python’s habitats are also known to be under threat due to destruction for the oil industry.
In some cases the African rock python might be a prey to hyenas or the African wild dogs during their digestion period, but aside from humans, adult African rock pythons have very few natural predators due to their large size. For the reason that these species can reach significant sizes, their constricting power must be respected. Most cases found of African rock pythons swallowing a crocodile whole, later to be found that the crocodile was not digested and penetrated the skin of the python. Although this species can easily kill an adult, there are only a few cases in which the victim, in most cases a child, was actually consumed.
Rare cases have been reported of an African rock python consuming a 10 year old boy, or attempting to eat a child. In another case a 13 year old was swallowed, but the python was forced to regurgitate the body. The African rock python began being known as “Man-eating snake”. This factor of their strength, as well as size, separates this python from most other snakes. Maybe even all reptiles for that matter. African rock pythons have been known to go after monitor lizards, which are known to very aggressive and strong.
This is one reason why African rock pythons should not be considered a first pet for someone who wants to own a snake. People who are ill-equipped owners or breeders do not know what to expect and end up getting ahead of themselves, and can no longer handle a beast that they just irresponsibly release them, no knowing what their actions have lead to. The African rock python has many fascinating features, from the way they hunt, the way they eat, live, breed, how big of an importance they to the environment not only around animals but humans as well.
It’s amazing at how big they can get and to know exactly how powerful they can be. The types of animals they can bring down are twice their size. Their lifestyle captures my attention. Besides the fact, that I am attracted to exotic pets, I own a Royal python, commonly known as a Ball python. Similar to the African rock python, the ball python is considered more docile and smaller in length and hopefully size in the future, but it is still a dangerous animal and should not be handled lightly. This research paper has added to my knowledge of the African rock python as well as other common snakes.
I have learned that what may seem to be a harmless hatchling at birth, can grow into an overgrown, powerful killing machine. This is also known as fatal attraction. I know that if I wanted to know release my ball python into the wild I would know how to do it properly. The choice of owning a python, or any snake for that matter , is a choice that needs to be taken seriously, these animals require attention, a stable and healthy living environment, and patience. You never know what to expect from them or when to expect something from them.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 11 November 2016
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