The python regius, also called the ball python and the royal python, is a non-venomous snake. It is native to parts of West Africa. The python regius gets one of its names from its reaction when frightened: It curls into a ball, usually positioning its head at the centre of the curl. No one is sure where the python regius got its royal nickname. Some believe the name comes from the story that Queen Cleopatra wore them around her wrist as a favoured pet. Today, the ball python continues to grow in popularity in America as a pet option.
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The ball python is the smallest of all African pythons. At birth, a ball python is about 14 to 18 inches long. Adults grow to about 3 to 4 feet long, sometimes longer. Ball pythons are easily recognisable by their black, brown and tan spots. Their colour markings will usually look like a mesh of splotches going from head to tail with these three colours. Their underside is usually a tan or cream colour. The head of a ball python is small and triangular. The body width gets bigger from the head to midsection of the body where it tapers in width back at the tail, making the midsection the widest area of its body.
Most ball pythons are born in Western or West-Central Africa. They need a humid environment of at least 26.7 degrees Celsius to survive. They prefer savannahs, grasslands and lightly wooded areas. This type of environment is conducive to their diet and other physical needs. Using large fields like grasslands as a hunting ground, the ball pythons can feed on small rodents like mice and rats. Grasslands and savannahs usually contain underground burrows for the ball python to use as a lair. While able to climb and swim, the ball python spends most of its time on level ground or underground. Still, they have been sighted curled around low-hanging tree branches.
Diet and Eating
The ball python can go months without eating, although it will usually hunt about once a month. Captive pythons have been known to eat up to two times a month and just as easily go three months without eating. When it does hunt, the ball python, like most snakes, rely on body heat. It uses its tongue to "taste" the location of its prey. It will then sit very still, allowing the prey to come within striking distance. Once the unlucky animal has come close enough, the ball python will strike and bite its prey. While holding the animal in its jaws, the python will curl its body around the prey and constrict the animal to death. Then the ball python will relax its jaw and slowly swallow its prey whole. The whole process can take 10 minutes to an hour.
The ball python is a nocturnal animal. During the day, the ball python can usually be found within dark areas like underground holes and burrows. It will rarely sleep in the open, preferring to sleep within tight quarters. The ball python will aestivate during summer months by staying inactive underground.
Ball pythons do shed their skin. Depending on their growth, a ball python may shed two to three times a year. A ball python will usually begin spending more time in water just days before shedding. After about five days of swimming and then sunbathing, the ball python will be ready to shed. It will spend hours rubbing against a rock or tree to loosen its skin before sliding completely out.
Female ball pythons reach mating age between 2 and 3 years. Males will reach maturity at 12 to 18 months. After pregnancy, the female ball python begins to get slightly bigger before going underground to lay a nest of about five to eight eggs. The female python will then incubate the eggs by curling her body around the nest. After a 90-day incubation, the hatchling will break its shell and slide out. A hatchling will usually shed within two weeks of being born and eat its first meal within the first month.
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