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Morelia viridis

GREEN TREE PYTHON


Classification

Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Pythonidae
Genus: Morelia
Species: viridis

Fun Facts

  • Green tree pythons are the most arboreal of all pythons.
  • Very few snake species incubate their eggs or provide any care for the young. The most elaborate care of the eggs is found in some python species like the green tree python.
  • The green tree python and the emerald tree boa are examples of “parallel evolution”. Although they live on different continents, they live in similar tropical forest habitats and are virtually identical in coloration and adaptations.

GREEN TREE PYTHON


Distribution

This species is found in New Guinea, various islands in Indonesia, and the northern tip of Australia (Cape York).

Habitat

This completely arboreal species is found in tropical rainforests, monsoon forests, dense thickets of bamboo or vines and forest margins that contain bushes and shrubs.

Physical Description

  • The green tree python averages 4.8-5.0 feet (1.45-1.5 m) in length but can grow up to seven feet (2.1 m).
  • Adults are bright green with white or yellow underbellies. They have a white or light blue vertical stripe along the body, and white or yellow lips, chin and throat.
  • Juveniles range from bright yellow to brick red when they hatch. They have white or yellow underbellies with a dark edged stripe running down the body.
  • Adults have yellow eyes; juveniles have white eyes.
  • The body is slender with a fairly short triangular head that is distinct from the neck.
  • Their prehensile tail is long and slender with a dark tip.

 

Diet

What Does It Eat?

In the wild: Tree lizards, small mammals as well as other small arboreal vertebrates.
At the zoo: Rats, mice.

What Eats It?

Social Organization

Green tree pythons are solitary except during mating.

Life Cycle

Green tree pythons breed in late fall and winter months. A mating pair typically copulates several times over a period of two months. Ovulation in the female lasts eight to 24 hours and can be observed as mid-body swelling that suddenly appears. The female deposits a clutch of six to 30 fertilized eggs often in the hollow of a tree. The female then coils around the eggs to incubate them until they hatch after 39-65 days. The hatchlings are 11-14 inches (280-350 mm) long and weigh 0.2-0.3 oz (8-10 g). Newborn snakes are on their own shortly after hatching and receive no further parental care. The hatchlings range in color from bright yellow to brick red and change to the adult green in 6-12 months. Lifespan in the wild is about 12 years.

Adaptations

Can You See Me Now?

The vivid emerald green coloration and disruptive pattern of spots and stripes provides camouflage for these highly arboreal snakes as they rest or move through the dense vegetation in the trees. When resting, they are virtually invisible – a useful adaptation for these patient predators.

Just Hanging Around Waiting for Dinner

The green tree python adopts a characteristic pose with one or two coils looped around a branch forming a sort of saddle with its head resting in the middle of the coils. The snake may curl its prehensile tail around the branch to serve as an anchor when it strikes out at passing prey or it may use the black tipped tail as a lure to draw prey in closer. These snakes are constrictors. They coil their body around prey and each time the victim exhales, the snake tightens the coils eventually suffocating the prey animal. The snake then swallows the prey headfirst.

Shedding My Old Skin

Snakes continue growing throughout life although the growth rate slows as the snake ages. They literally outgrow their skin and periodically the outer layer is shed and replaced. The skin is often shed as a single slough, which is peeled off inside out. The eyes are covered by transparent scales called “spectacles” which are replaced when the snake sheds.

Conservation Connection

IUCN Status – Not evaluated.

Green tree pythons are vulnerable due to their restricted range and habitat loss in these areas. They are also highly prized by reptile collectors due to their brilliant color.

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