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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Creature Feature: Reticulated Python



What? IT HAS A SPINE! :D

Yes, I am a sucker for snakes just as much as I am for worms. Some people would say that they're related - a few cultures believe that worms are related to dragons, thus leading to the term 'wyrm' for describing both creatures. The same case applies to snakes; 'wyvern,' 'dragon,' 'naga,' and even the oriental 'Orochi' are all directly related to words for snake. The word 'python' comes directly from the particular serpent slain by Apollo at Delphi in Greco-Roman mythology.

Why this python, then? Why not the giant yellow snake that appears on stage and in classroom presentations all the time? Yes, those are totally different snake species, but does it really matter? Won't they both eat puppies, kitties, and other cute furry things when all is said and done?


Surely, if Britney Spears can handle a giant python, anyone can do it...right?

Well, first off, don't get reticulated pythons (P. reticulatus) mixed up with Burmese pythons (P. molurus bivittatus). Both are Asian pythons that grow to considerable size, have similar dietary requirements, and have been featured in the news (often misrepresented) numerous times. Although they have similar range, diets, and get massive, woe to the poor soul who does not do his or her homework!

Like I said, both of these python species grow HUGE. Retics, however, grow bigger; a female Burm usually caps out at around 20 feet, but a retic may well get around 30 (making them the longest snakes in the world)! Retics are also far more inquisitive snakes than Burmese pythons, and have a reputation for being aggressive. This statement was made before the advent of the tiger morph, which, while not staying any smaller, seemed to be less mean than the normal retics. (Plus, it was a co-dominant trait, which encouraged breeding projects - a co-dominant trait usually shows up in 50% of the first clutch.)

Reticulated pythons one of the few snakes reported to eat people on a semi-regular basis. They are not, however, venomous or nearly as dangerous as some news reporters would lead you to believe. They can make fine pets in the hands of a competent handler, but as many of you have noticed, stupid people out-breed smart people by a considerable margin. Maybe this is Darwin at work.

So, if they're so deadly, why do people breed them to begin with? They are indeed very intelligent snakes, and just about the only species to exhibit instincts that one would normally associate with mammals. (For those curious, the Russian rat snake seems to be another personable species.) The most celebrated among these is the retic's ability to recognize its owner within a crowd of people. Some breeders have also reported a homing instinct in their retics - that is, they will return to their cage if set free. These snakes could be amazing pets a few years down the road. There are several dwarf retic strains that are considerably smaller than the monstrous, man-eating snakes that jump to many a mind at the word 'python.'


Silver Eyes are Real by =KuroKarasu on deviantART Yes, I took this. :D

This is why it's a real shame that so many people are trying to get retics, Burms, and several other constrictors banned. At the mention of the word "python," their mind immediately jumps to man-eating, giant snakes, even if one of the smaller species of the genus is in question. They operate under the pretense that giant pythons are some sort of nationwide threat (you're confusing that with stupidity), all the while completely ignoring the similar threat posed by cats, dogs, and cattle - three creatures considered 100% domesticated by most standards. People do not cut down acres of rain forest so that their giant pythons have space to roam; nor do pythons contribute to global warming, I have personally been attacked and/or bitten more often by dogs than by snakes, and every so often, it's rewarding to see a place's natural fauna take care of an invasive species all by itself.

Australia will kick your ass, but that's a topic for another entry.



Retics in particular also look really trippy as albinos. Yes, that's an albino up there; not at all like an albino mammal, is it? The reasons why will be discussed in another article. No PhotoShop was used in the pic above.

Now, imagine living around giant snakes on a regular basis like this kid in Cambodia. That's a Burmese python, which, in contrast to the retic's aggro reputation, is known for being a total sweetheart. The people of Asia may kill snakes for their skins from time to time (which is why the Burmese python is protected in Hong Kong, the land of cheapass EVERYTHING), but their reception is generally far more positive than in the West. Giant pythons such as retics probably inspired and encouraged legends of dragons. Korean folklore in particular has a creature called an imugi, which is a sort of proto-dragon that just so happens to look like a giant snake.

Unfortunately, the only exposure the West has had thus far to the imugi is this:


Try to picture it without the suck, please.

Yeah. I love oriental folklore, and even I thought D-War sucked balls.

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