Story Behind the Science
Snakes have always been admired as curious creatures for countless reasons. Snakes use their tongues to “smell,” and they sense vibrations as a method of hearing since they don’t actually have ears. These creatures rely on the temperature of their environment to create body heat, making them cold-blooded like most other reptiles. They shed their skin about three times every year and can go long periods (several months or even a year) without eating.
The main difference between pythons and boas is their method of giving birth; pythons lay eggs, but boas give birth to live young. Pythons may also have extra teeth and one additional bone in their heads, while boas do not. To further distinguish the two, pythons are native to the Old World (Asia, Australia and Africa), and boas can be found in both the Old World and New World (The Americas).
Many exotic snakes have become an issue throughout south Florida, particularly in the Everglades National Park. Most notably is the Burmese python, which has had a negative effect on the natural ecological communities of the Everglades. Burmese pythons are native to certain Asian countries but have become popular pets throughout the world. Many of these pet pythons, in addition to other exotic snakes, have been released from their homes, both intentionally and accidentally. As a result, these snakes have reproduced and have become an invasive species in places such as Everglades.
In recent years, mammal populations in the Everglades have declined while the population of Burmese pythons in the area has risen. It’s been estimated that a fully developed python eats approximately 200 pounds of food over a time span of five years, contributing to the significant decrease of many of the Everglades’ inhabitants.
Did You Know?
- Pythons are most vulnerable to attack by predators after they have eaten a large meal because they usually cannot move as quickly.Learn More »
- Pythons can live up to 35 years.Learn More »
- Snakes swallow their prey whole, regardless of whether it’s dead or alive. Though they have teeth, they are not used for chewing food.Learn More »
- Pythons, boa constrictors and anacondas are known for their large size and often dangerous behavior, but none of them are venomous snakes. They kill their prey by suffocating them.Learn More »
- Anacondas, also known as water boas, can grow to be more than 30 feet long and over 220 pounds. The average anaconda is about 17 feet long.Learn More »
- The largest snake fossil, named Titanoboa, is 50 feet long and dates back 60 million years.Learn More »
|Compare & Contrast||Python||Snakes|
|How many species?||33||Over 3,000|
|Where do they occur?||Pythons are native to southern Asia, Africa and Australia, though they are often kept as pets worldwide.||Snakes are common throughout the world in various environments, including forests, jungles, deserts, swamps and even oceans.|
|What do they eat?||Pythons can prey on food up to four times their size. They often eat rodents, birds, lizards and a variety of mammals, including monkeys, pigs and even antelopes.||Snakes are considered predators and often have specialized diets. Some snakes prey on worms, small insects and eggs, while others have larger prey like other reptiles, rodents, fish and birds.|
|Do they have predators?||As adults, python predators include birds of prey and big cats like lions and leopards. While they are young, predators can range from large insects, spiders and frogs to wild dogs and other snakes.||Depending on their size, snake’s predators may include cats, birds, other snakes and even insects.|
Nat Geo Wild, “World’s Deadliest: Python Eats Antelope”
Conservation Organizations for Pythons & Snakes
- Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
- 2013 Python Challenge, Wildlife Foundation of Florida
- National Invasive Species Information Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Python Patrol, The Nature Conservancy
- International Reptile Conservation Foundation
- Partners in Amphibian & Reptile Conservation
- The Center for Snake Conservation