Woma Python - Reptile Encounters

Woma Python

Scientific name:

Aspidites ramsayi

Other names:

Woma, Ramsay's python, Sand python


Least concern

Woma pythons are 1.5m (4.5 ft) in length, with a narrow head and broad body. They have small eyes, with a flat profile that tapers to a thin tail. Their colours can be pale brown to nearly black, with a pattern of dark and light shaded stripes. Their belly is cream or light yellow, and the scales around the eyes are darker than the rest of the head. This snake lacks heat sensing pits on their face to locate their prey as they have a different diet to most other pythons.

These snakes feed on a variety of vertebrates, but mostly feeds on reptiles as they lack heat sensing pits to find warm blooded prey. However, they will eat small mammals and birds if they are offered. They spend the majority of their time catching their prey in burrows so cannot coil around it easily, they will use their head to squish prey against the walls of the burrow and then bring it out into the open.

Woma pythons live in the arid, hot parts of the country; in sandy and rocky terrain, therefore they are nocturnal and spend their days sheltering in hollow logs or burrows.

Woma pythons are commonly found in the West and in the centre of the country. They are found in Western Australia, through the bottom of the Northern Territory, northern South Australia and northern NSW.

Woma pythons are found in the hottest parts of Australia, therefore they need to protect themselves in the heat and elect to hunt at night. However, if they need to travel during the day over hot surfaces they can lift their bodies off the ground and reach forward and push off the ground again to try and limit the amount of body surface on the ground at a time. They also use their flat, shovel head to excavate the sand and dig a burrow to hide in during the day.

The southwestern subspecies of Woma python is classified as critically endangered and the South Australian subspecies is critically endangered or possibly extinct in the wild. This is mainly from habitat clearing of their home range, reducing the vegetation and therefore their safety. They are also subjected to ecosystem stress, due to increased competition from the Mulga snake, and a reduction in mammals that could be creating burrows for the Woma to hide in. In this area the number of feral cats and foxes is very high, and baby Woma pythons are easily caught for food by these animals, again reducing their numbers.

These snakes are from the python family; pythons are non-venomous family of snakes, unlike their cousins the elapids such as tiger snakes, red-bellied black snakes and eastern brown snakes, they do not have venom glands or fangs in their mouth; they have 120 sharp needle-like teeth. These teeth are used for grabbing prey before they wrap their bodies around and use their 220 stomach muscles to constrict their prey and induce a cardiac arrest. Once the prey is subdued the snake will use the backwards facing teeth to pull the prey down to swallow it whole.

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