Scientific name: Morelia amethystina
Country: Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Philippines
Continent: Asia, Oceania
Diet: Small to medium size birds, reptiles and mammals including fruit bats, rats and possums. In the Zoo, they eat rats and quails, which are purchased frozen and kept in deep freeze until required.
Food & feeding: Carnivore
Habitats: Tropical rainforest, scrub forest
Conservation status: Not Threatened
Relatives: Reticulated python, anaconda
Description: The amethystine is one of the world's largest snakes. It has been recorded at a record length of 8.5 metres but more frequently at lengths of about 5 metres. It is a slender python for its size and not able to kill the large animals that its relative, the anaconda of South America, can. It is a dull olive brown or greeny-yellow in colour, but the scales have an overall purple/blue (amethyst) iridescence, which produces an attractive shimmering effect, especially in sunlight.
Lifestyle: Small pythons spend most time in trees. Large ones spend most of their time on the ground in mangrove swamps, dense rainforests or along stream and rivers in scrubland. This species is a good swimmer. Like most of the large pythons, amethystines feed on a variety of small mammals, birds and occasionally large lizards such as monitors. It detects its warm-blooded prey at night with the help of heat-sensing pits located on the front of the head. When a small mammal is within striking distance, the python seizes it prey with its gaping mouth and throws a coil of its body around its prey which constricts and suffocates the animal.
Growing up: The female can lay about 20 to 25 eggs at a time, usually once a year but sometimes twice. The eggs are incubated for about two months by the female coiling round them. Reptiles do not make their own body heat (they are 'cold-blooded') but the females shiver instead. The muscles used for shivering release heat that warms the eggs, speeding their development. The hatchlings feed on small mammals.
Bristol Zoo bred this species for the first time in 2009; successfully hatching out 13 babies.
Conservation news: They are not thought to be endangered in the wild at present, but their rainforest home is under threat from logging and mining activities.
Pythons do not kill their prey by crushing to death as many people believe - instead they tighten the coils around their prey until it can no longer draw breath and die due to lack of oxygen.