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.
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.
Like most of the large pythons, amethystines feed on a variety of small mammals such as fruit bats, rats and possums. They will also eat small and medium sized birds and occasionally even large lizards such as monitors.
In the Zoo, the amethystine is fed rats and quails, which are purchased frozen and kept in deep freeze until required.
This species is found in tropical rainforest and scrub forest in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Australia and Philippines.
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. It is a good swimmer, so can travel by water when required.
The amethystine is not thought to be endangered in the wild at present but its rainforest home is under threat from logging and mining activities.
Bristol Zoo bred this species for the first time in 2009; successfully hatching 13 babies.
The amethystines python 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 its prey with its gaping mouth and throws a coil of its body around its prey which constricts and suffocates the animal.
You can find our amethystine python in the Reptile House, near Twilight World and the Aquarium.
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