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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Species Fact Profile: Green Tree Python (Morelia viridis)

Green Tree Python

Morelia viridis (Schlegel, 1872)

Range: Southern Indonesia , New Guinea, Cape York Peninsula (Australia)
Habitat: Rainforest
Diet: Small Mammals, Reptiles
Social Grouping: Solitary, Non-Territorial
Reproduction:  Reproduction has never been observed in the wild.  Variable breeding season is influenced by weather, and breeding may not occur every year.  In captivity, anywhere from 1-25 eggs are laid per clutch, usually in a tree hollow. Eggs are incubated and protected by female.  Males are sexually mature at 2.5 years, females at 3.5 years
Lifespan:  20 Years (Captivity)
Conservation Status:  IUCN Least Concern, CITES Appendix II

  • Average length 1.2 meters, but sometimes over 2 meters in length
  • Coloration varies by locality, but adults are usually vivid green with a broken stripe of yellow or white scales down the spine; juveniles may be red, yellow, or orange.  In some populations, some adults may retain their juvenile coloration for their entire lives
  • One of the most arboreal of python species; they have a characteristic method of coiling themselves on branches, forming a saddle with their head resting in the middle
  • Primarily active at night (when nocturnal prey is most active), they will usually only change their positions at dawn or dusk to avoid revealing their location
  • Popularly believed to be bird specialists, there is actually no evidence for this, based on the analysis of the stomach contents of wild pythons
  • The primary method of hunting is to wait in an ambush position in the trees (sometimes for two weeks), holding onto a branch with the prehensile tail and striking out when prey approaches
  • Some pythons - especially juveniles - will wriggle their tail as a lure to attract prey within striking range
  • Predators include birds of prey, monitor lizards, dingos, and quolls - camouflage is the primary defensive mechanism
  • In some parts of its range, it overlaps with - and competes with - the closely related carpet python (M. spilota).  The two species hybridize in captivity.
  • Very similar in appearance to the unrelated emerald tree boa (Corallus caninus), down to method of coiling on branches.  The two species are often mistaken for one another in captivity; zoos often display them side-by-side as an example of convergent evolution
  • Despite a sometimes irascible nature, their coloration and the ease with which they allow themselves to be viewed (coiled prominently with their head in the center) has made this species very popular in pet trade (for medium-to-advanced hobbyists).  In the trade they are often called “chondros” (the former genus name was Chondropython)

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