Pythons are nonvenomous snakes native to tropical regions. Some pythons can become quite large, while other species grow no larger than a typical grass snake. Pythons are eaten as food in some parts of the world. Other people keep pythons as pets. Pythons do not usually attack humans unless they are stressed, mishandled or provoked.
Pythons vary in size. The smallest is the anthill python, which is around 57.5 cm (23 inches) long. The largest is the reticulated python, which can grow to 10 m (33 feet) in length. Reticulated pythons can weigh up to 113 kg (250 lb). Female pythons are usually larger than the males.
Pythons are native to Africa, Asia and Australia. They live in tropical and subtropical climates in rainforests, savannahs and deserts. Pythons live on the ground or in trees. Larger pythons usually stay on the ground, but they can climb trees if they need to. They spend a lot of time in water and are expert swimmers.
Pythons ambush their prey rather than chase it. Small pythons eat lizards and rodents. Large pythons eat reptiles, fish, birds and mammals. The largest pythons may prey on pigs, antelope, goats, deer and crocodiles. Rock pythons need only a yearly amount of food that is equal to their own weight. They can eat that much in one meal and do not need to eat again for several months. Pythons kill their prey by wrapping around it and squeezing. Once dead, the prey is swallowed whole. The python unhinges its jaw and swallows the prey head first.
Pythons do not give birth to live young; they lay eggs. A female can lay up to 100 eggs at a time. She cares for her eggs by wrapping her body around them for warmth and protection from predators. Pythons contract their muscles to raise body temperature to keep the eggs warm while they are incubating. After the eggs hatch, the mother python leaves, and the babies fend for themselves.
Pythons have fangs, but they are not venomous. Pythons propel themselves by pushing against the ground with their scales. They can move about 1.6 km (1 mile) per hour on flat ground. Pythons usually change colour as they grow older. Some species can even change their colour as a form of camouflage. Pythons can live up to 40 years if well cared for in captivity.