Aspidites Melanocephalus 'Black-Head Python'

Aspidites Melanocephalus, also known as the Black-headed python or the Black-headed rock python, is broadly distributed throughout the northern third of Australia, extending from east to west across the continent. This range includes a majority of the Northern Territory, the northern latitudes of Queensland and the northern third of Western Australia.

Aspidites Melanocephalus - Black Headed Python

Black-headed pythons have a distinctive glossy, black hood that covers the entire cranium and extends 20 scales down the neck along the dorsal line. In juveniles, the dark pigmentation can extend even further to cover the anterior ventral scales. The rest of the body can range from sandy brown to yellow to a pale reddish tan, but normally exhibits irregular dark brown bands that can blend together along the mid-dorsal line, creating a striped appearance. There may also be small blotches between the stripes along the sides of some specimens. The venter can range from white to pink, but can also exhibit dark spots similar those along the dorsum. Coloration of Black-headed pythons can vary extensively depending on age and geographic location. For example, Western Australian specimens are much lighter with reddish overtones than those found in the Northern Territory and Queensland, which have darker, more intense striping patterns. Furthermore, while older specimens tend to be paler with less distinctive markings, younger specimens are known to exhibit markings of greater intensity.

Body length in black-headed pythons ranges from 1.5 to 2 m. Captive adults weigh 16 kg on average, and females can grow to nearly a foot longer than males. Body form is cylindrical and slender, with 315 to 359 ventral scales, which is more than most Australasian species of Aspidites. Black-headed pythons have a reduced head and strengthened rostral region that make it well-suited for burrowing and capturing prey.

Aspidites Melanocephalus - Black Headed PythonModerate isolation between populations of black-headed pythons has resulted in poorly defined population-distinguishing characteristics. Inter-population differences include the pairing of parietal bones (one pair in western populations and two to three in other populations), as well as fewer loreals and suboculars in western populations in comparison to their eastern counterparts.

Most often populating the dry scrublands and savannas throughout its geographic range,Aspidites melanocephalus can also be found in damper forests and agricultural farmland. It avoids the most arid environmental conditions, but can otherwise survive within a wide range of climates and conditions. Most of the time these pythons reside in either self-dug burrows or in abandoned burrows. Its fossorial tendencies allow it to keep a more constant body temperature, thus allowing it to occupy a wide range of habitat types. This species is a capable climber and is occasionally found in trees. Elevations inhabited by this species range from 50 feet above sea level to 200 feet above sea level.

The diet of Black-headed pythons primarily consists of other reptiles. Skinks are the primary prey of black-headed pythons. Other important prey includes geckos, bearded dragons, legless lizards and Perentie, the largest monitor lizard native to Australia. Small snakes, including some venomous snakes are also consumed by black-headed pythons, which are completely impervious to the venom found in even the most toxic Australian snakes. Consumption of mammals and some birds is rare but does occur in nature. Because Black-headed pythons lack venom, they utilize constriction to subdue large prey prior to consumption.

Although black-headed pythons are seasonally monogamous, both males and females may seek extra-pair copulations. Male black-headed pythons are not as aggressive as most pythonids, which frequently engage in male to male combat. However, some instances of combat have been recorded. Although this species is large and is relatively common throughout much of its geographic range, individuals are rarely observed, leading to a limited number of studies on this species. Aspidites Melanocephalus - Black Headed Python

Aspidites melanocephalusfemales incubate their eggs, which are laid during October and November, by coiling around them for approximately 2 months before they hatch. Males are not as aggressive as most pythonids, though mating and courtship often involve male-male competition, which may include combative sparring or biting. In captivity, males paired with a single female have the highest mating success rate. Copulation can range from 20 minutes to 6 hours and a single clutch can range from 8 to 18 offspring. Young become reproductively mature by 4 to 5 years of age.