Black-headed Python

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After road-cruising at night for the past several months, I was finally able to find my most sought-after python, the black-headed python (Aspidites melanocephalus). Black-headed pythons inhabit semi-arid to tropical forested regions in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, and Queensland, and although they occupy a wide range of habitats, these pythons tend to be fairly localized and can be difficult to encounter. They have both fossorial and arboreal habits, capable of residing in burrows or hollow logs for long periods of time and climbing up trees with their muscular bodies. During my nocturnal work with the frillies I wondered if I might find a black-headed python pushing itself up the vertical eucalypts to snag a sleeping frilly.

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I was immediately struck by how beautiful the head was. As in all my photography an animal’s beauty can never be fully represented in a photograph, but even more so in the black-headed python. The pure black head scales shimmered and reflected light like a black steel mirror as I moved around the snake, and the dark brown irises could be faintly picked out when moving its eyes to gaze up at me. Black-headed pythons lack external heat-sensing pits and have a beak-like rostrum, setting them apart from typical pythons. Before reading about this species I did not know that some pythons lacked visible pits, and if I had encountered this snake I would have been excited and confused.

Photographed after disturbance [4]

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Black-headed pythons can attain lengths of up to two or three meters, larger than its only congener the woma python (Aspidites ramsayi) which prefers more arid habitats in the center of Australia and neighboring regions in the east and west. Woma pythons also have a brown and pale striped body but differ from A. melanocephalus in having a yellow head, sometimes with bits of black. Juveniles of both species of Aspidites may be superficially similar in coloration to western brown snakes (Pseudonaja nuchalis), but the distinction between them is apparent when looked at closely.

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