Diamond python (Morelia spilota spilota)

My friends and I found this python slithering along a rock face on the coastline. From a distance the python’s pattern appears black and dim white, but up close it has brilliant yellow speckles. We watched this snake for several hours, and it eventually made its way into a crevice to rest before sunset. We saw the two tube-shaped tunnels in its lair, with the dirt pushed aside making it clear who was the inhabitant. One opening was to the side along the sandstone wall, and the other opening led from the roots of a large tree up into a matrix of branches towering over the sandstone wall.

The diamond python (Morelia spilota spilota) is a subspecies of the carpet python, which are extremely variable in coloration throughout their range. When I travel to the Top End in a few weeks I hope to find the Northern Territory carpet python (Morelia spilota variegata), a snake with prominent stripes, usually alternating between brown and pale yellow colors.

NSW, Australia

A wide angle shot of the diamond python. High resolution: https://flic.kr/p/CcewxS


Footage of the snake:


In situ. High resolution: https://flic.kr/p/Ccex3j
A shy snake, hiding in the grasses, and eventually retreating into a crevice. High resolution: https://flic.kr/p/CcewQq

Beautiful gold speckled patterning on the diamond python. The “diamond” patterns are formed through aberrant scales, with colored spots becoming lighter and migrating to different parts of each scale. Some scales lack the spots completely.

High resolution: https://flic.kr/p/Ccew95


Portrait of the diamond python. High resolution: https://flic.kr/p/YUuRTw


Pythons, boas, and vipers have labial pits for infrared sensation – used to detect warm-bodied prey by detecting changes in temperature. With this sensory capability for locating heat sources, these snakes are effective nocturnal hunters, striking prey in almost complete darkness.

Frontal view showing labial pits on the diamond python. High resolution: https://flic.kr/p/YdwCWQ


Generally speaking, pythons have labial pits only on the sides of the lower jaw, while boas have pits on both the lower and upper jaw. Below is a picture of a juvenile ringed tree boa (Corallus annulatus) from Costa Rica in January 2017. You can see slight definition of the pits on the upper jaw, but in other members of the genus such as the emerald tree boa (Corallus caninus), the upper pits are much more pronounced.

High resolution: https://flic.kr/p/Ta8Ugx


Vipers, on the other hand, have two enlarged pits below their nostrils. Below is a video of an adult fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper) from Costa Rica, also in January 2017.


Lastly, a few more pictures of the diamond python with the sandstone landscape.

High resolution: https://flic.kr/p/CcewkC


Spot the snake! High resolution: https://flic.kr/p/YUuRGE


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