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Ball Python

Python regius
Conservation Status: 
Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
Range: 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Habitat: 
Grasslands, savannas, and sparsely wooded areas.

Ball pythons are constrictor snakes, which means that when they find something to eat, they will grab their prey, coil around it once or twice, and squeeze. The prey’s artery pressure drops, vein pressure increases, and blood vessels start to close. Their heart does not have enough strength to pump against the pressure, so blood flow stops.

They can slither very quietly, without disturbing their prey. Because of their shape, they are able to slither into a rodent’s hole in the ground, find the rodents, and eat them.  They have a very elastic tendon in the back of the jaw that lets them swallow relatively large prey.  Each side of the jaw can move independently.

Ball pythons have pit organs, which are the small holes on their face above their mouths. They contain a membrane that can detect infrared radiation from about a metre away from warm bodies (like potential food).   Ball pythons do not have an outer ear nor a tympanic middle ear, and would therefore be insensitive to airborne sound. However, because of the way their middle ear bone connects to their jaw bones, they likely have acute sensitivity to substrate vibrations.  Their eyes are ideal for dim light conditions.

As good as they are at hunting, ball pythons get their name from their tendency to curl into a ball when threatened, tucking their head in the middle of the ball. They hide in mammal burrows and tend to brumate in underground hiding places.