Lee Richardson Zoo

Green tree python

Order Squamata - snakes and lizards
Family Pythonidae

Scientific Name: Morelia viridis

 

Description: This snake is one of the easiest pythons to identify due to its brilliant green coloration. Some adults can have a yellow color while the young can vary from yellow to red. Most have scattered white or yellow spots along the back. Adults range from 4.5 – 6 feet long and have smaller scales on their heads. Their teeth are straight and there are thermoreceptors on the upper lip. They also have a prehensile tail that is useful while climbing.

Home Range:Throughout most of New Guinea and the surrounding islands of Aura, Biak, Misool, Salawati, and Normanby. There is also small population in Australia on the east side of the Cape of York Peninsula.

 

Habitat TypePrimary and secondary forest.

 

Reproductive Habits:Females are larger than males but both reach sexual maturity at around three years old. One clutch can have up to 30 eggs and the female will coil around the eggs to incubate them. During incubation, the female will increase her metabolism by contracting her muscles in order to raise her body temperature. When the young hatch they are not green like the adults but range from yellow to bright red. Getting eggs to hatch in captivity used to be a problem but due to modifying incubation techniques, hatching success has increased significantly.

 

Diet in Wild:  Juvenile pythons will eat mostly small skinks and geckos while the adults feed primarily on rodents. Birds do not make up a major part of their diet.

 

Diet in Zoomice

 

General Info:   One of the most interesting characteristics of the green tree python is that when the young hatch, they look significantly different from the adults, ranging from yellow to red in appearance (ontogenetic coloration). They usually turn to the typical green color of the adults when they are between 6-12 months and this color change does not correspond to shedding of the skin. Each color stage seems to help the snake camouflage in their immediate habitat. It is unknown what initiates the color change from yellow/red to green. Green tree pythons bear a very similar resemblance to the Emerald tree boa from Central and South America. This represents an excellent example of “convergent evolution”, where two separate species in two different regions have over time achieved a very similar appearance and/or lifestyle. The young of the emerald tree boa area also a different color from the adults. Green tree pythons also use a very curious method to capture prey. They will loop a couple coils over a branch and place their head in the middle of the coils. They will then wiggle their tail while holding the rest of the body still. When an animal comes close to investigate the tail, they will lunge out and strike the animal. Because of this luring/striking method, scientist once believed that birds composed a large part of their diet, but recent research shows that this is not the case.  

 

Bibliography

Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol 7, Michael Hutchins Series Editor, 2003, Gale Publishing, Farmington Hills, MI. Pg 419 - 422 , 426. Hillman, M. 2010. “Morelia viridis” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web, Accessed September 17, 2012 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Morelia_viridis.html http://www.waza.org/en/zoo/choose-a-species/reptiles/snakes/morelia-viridis