A python’s life hangs in the balance from day one, but it faces challenges head-on.
These majestic snakes enter the world without any parental guidance, hatching from eggs alongside their new siblings. As solitary creatures, each animal sets off into the sunset alone and begins to learn life’s most important lessons. Hunting is hugely instinctive and has been coded into the python’s DNA over 90 million years. Each sense is fine-tuned to detect prey, and these reptiles can perceive their surroundings in ways that humans can only dream of. Pythons have a super smell-sensor called a Jacobson’s organ tucked away in the roof of the mouth that enables them to ‘taste’ the air. The tongue collects miniscule molecules in the air that can then be identified in the Jacobson’s organ, letting the snake know exactly what is in the vicinity.
This process is both subtle and silent. The snake is able to collect detailed information about its surroundings, such as the presence of other animals’ pheromones, while remaining unseen. This is their strategy as ambush predators, waiting for anything to enter its strike range, from a primate to a porcupine. These snakes don’t need to feed every day and can survive months at a time without eating.
A wild python may only eat three or four times a year, using the weeks in between to keep its body at the right temperature for digestion. Staying warm is big business in the reptile world, and a python’s body heat can determine its reproductive behaviour, its appetite and even whether the snake continues to live.
These animals can’t regulate their body temperature like mammals can, so spend sunlight hours basking in the warm glow without moving a muscle. There are over 30 species of python found on Earth, and although they have all carved out a different niche to occupy, they are still in the same family and behave and even look fairly similar. It seems that this group of reptiles has found a winning formula for jungle survival.