Taxonomic name: Python molurus bivittatus Kuhl, 1820
Synonyms: Python bivittatus bivittatus Jacobs et al., 2009, Python bivittatus Kuhl 1820, Python bivittatus Werner, 1910, Python molurus bivittatus Mertens 1921, Python molurus Boulenger, 1893
Common names: Burmese python (English-Puerto Rico), piton (Spanish), piton albina (Spanish), piton birmana (Spanish)
Organism type: reptile
The Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) is a nocturnal predator that kills its prey by constriction. It is the largest and most water-dependent of the Python molurus complex, though it lives on land or on trees when juvenile. It threatens native species of amphibians, birds, lizards, snakes and bats. P. molurus bivittatus represents a threat to humans, particularly small children as well as pet animals, and it may damage agricultural activities, such as chicken farms. Worldwide, there are documented attacks of adult pythons on full-grown pigs, goats, caimans and even pet-owners. In Puerto Rico there are concerns that the Burmese python may out-compete the two native boa species: the Puerto Rican boa (Epicrates inornatus) and the Mona Island boa (Epicrates monensis), which are smaller in size than the Burmese python.
Adult Burmese pythons have light-coloured skin with a characteristic pattern of many dark brown patches bordered in black, and may measure more than 20 feet. Adult females are larger than adult males. The pet industry has developed a variety of "morphs" with a number of different colorations and patterns, including albinos and "dwarfs".
Python molurus molurus, Python reticulatus, Python sebae
agricultural areas, natural forests, planted forests, range/grasslands, riparian zones, ruderal/disturbed, scrub/shrublands, urban areas, water courses, wetlands
The subspecies Python molurus bivittatus occupy a wide variety of habitats: tropical forest, savannahs, riparian areas, marshes and swamps, and continental tropical islands, from sea level to moderate elevations. Human presence have forced them to adapt to live in cultivated sites, and even in suburbs. They exhibit both terrestrial and arboreal habits, and they need to enter water on occasion, specially prior to shedding. They can stay underwater without breathing for as much as half an hour. They are excellent climbers and swimmers.
The Burmese python threatens native species of amphibians, birds, lizards, snakes, and bats introduced ranges by predation, competition, and disease transmission. This species also represents a threat to humans, particularly small children, to pet animals, and is known to damage agricultural activities, such as chicken farms. Worldwide, there are documented attacks of adult pythons on full-grown pigs, goats, caimans and even pet-owners. In Puerto Rico there are concerns that Burmese python may outcompete the two native boa species: the Puerto Rican boa (see Epicrates inornatus in IUCN Red List of Threatened Species), the Mona Island boa (Epicrates monensis monensis), and the Virgin Islands boa (Epicrates monensis granti) which are smaller in size than the Burmese python (Pitt and Witmer, 2007; Reed , 2005).
The international pet trade has turned the Burmese python into a valuable merchandise, various morphs in different colors and patterns have been developed which are assigned high prices. More than 144,000 Burmese pythons have been imported into the United States for exotic pet trade from 2000-2005 (Lovgren, 2005).
In its native range, large numbers are collected for their skin, sometimes to make folk medicines, and, in China, for its meat. In some countries, many consider them beneficial for their control of vermin such as rats.
The Burmese python is a CITES Appendix II species (Tsu-Way et al. 2006).
Native range: The subspecies Python molurus bivittatus is native to Southern China, Eastern India, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal, Bengladesh, Northern continental Malaysia, and Western Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, and nearby islands).
Known introduced range: It has been introduced to Southern Florida (USA) and Puerto Rico.
Introduction pathways to new locations
Internet sales/postal services:
Taken to botanical garden/zoo:
Local dispersal methods
Escape from confinement:
Natural dispersal (local):
Preventative measures: Since the established population in Florida is the result of pet releases or escapes, biologists in charge of Brumese python management and removal in the Florida Everglades advocate increased pet owner education, recquiring a license to own imported snakes as in Australia, stircter standards for snake import, and harsher penalties for their release throughout the United States to prevent further establishement. State agencies in Florida (USA) are establishing regulations on the purchase and trade of invasive reptiles. The USFWS Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act Report for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan recommends the removal or partial removal of canals and levees which serve as means of transportation for Burmese pythons and other invasives among wetlands (Ferriter et al. 2006). Additionally, biologists recommend recquiring a liscense to own potentially invasive reptiles, as in Australia, stricter standards on snake import, and harsher penalties for snake release in the United States to prevent new invasive populations of Burmese pythons (Weissmueller, 2007; Pitt and Witmer, 2007).
Physcial: Removal of Burmese pythons have been performed in Florida (USA) by Florida Park Service, Fish and Wildlife, and Fire Rescue employees. The use of radio tracking, pheromone lures, traps, hand capture and locator dogs have been employed to manage and remove Burmese pythons. Detailed mapping and tracking tracking of Burmese pythons and even a "Python Hotline" to report sightings and request removal have also contributed to removal efforts in Florida (Beck et al. undated; Ferriter et al. 2006).
The subspecies Python molurus bivittatus is strictly a carnivore. They prefer small mammals and birds, but it eats any animal that it can catch and kill by constriction. Diet in the Florida Everglades consists of racoon, rabbit, muskrat, squirrel, opossum, cotton rat, black rat, bobcat, house wren, pied-billed grebe, white ibis, and limpkin (Weissmueller, 2007).
The subspecies Python molurus bivittatus is sexual and oviparous. Females can breed at their fourth year of age and usually lay 12-36 but may lay as many as 100 eggs after a 60-90 day gestation period. Neonates lead independent lifes from birth (Ferriter et al. 2006; Krysko et al. 2008).
Burmese pythons reach sexual maturity four years before they can breed succesfully. Females normally lay 12-36 eggs, but are capable of laying over 100, after a 60-90 days gestation period. The mother incubates the eggs by coiling on top of them. Incubation takes about 2 months afterwhich hatchlings emerge. Typical life span is 15-25 years (Ferriter et al. 2006; Krysko et al. 2008).
Principal sources: Barker, David G. and Tracy M. Barker., 2008. The Distribution of the Burmese Python, Python molurus bivittatus. Bull. Chicago Herp. Soc. 43(3):33-38.
Ferriter, Amy, Bob Doren, Carole Goodyear, Dan Thayer, Jim Burch, Lou Toth, Mike Bodle, Jon Lane, Don Schmitz, Paul Pratt, Skip Snow and Ken Langeland., 2006. Chapter 9: The Status of Nonindigenous Species in the South Florida Environment. 2006 South Florida Environmental Report.
Pitt, William C. and Gary W. Witmer., 2007. Chapter 12 Invasive Predators: a synthesis of the past, present, and future. In Predation in Organisms Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
The Reptile Database: Python molurus Linnaeus, 1758
Compiled by: National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII), Felix A. Grana Raffucci, Technical Advisor, Puerto Rico Department of Natural & Environmental Resources & IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
Last Modified: Thursday, 21 January 2010