Africa’s largest snake (3) (4), the African rock python (Python sebae) has a long, stout body, patterned with blotches that vary in colour between brown, olive, chestnut and buffy yellow, often joining up in a broad, irregular stripe (3) (5). The triangular head has many sharp, backwardly curved teeth and is marked on top with a dark brown “spear-head” outlined in buffy yellow (3) (6).
In Florida, although this snake has been introduced in a few areas, it is currently known to be established only in a small localized area on the southeastern side of US 41 (Tamiami Trail) and SR 997 (Krome Avenue) in Miami, Miami-Dade County. Outside Florida, this species occurs from Kenya and Tanzania across much of central Africa to Mali and Mauritania, and north to Ethiopia.
Like all snakes, pythons are cold-blooded; they are the same temperature as the environment. They continue to grow all their lives, getting bigger and bigger each year. African Rock Python average 18 to 20 feet long, but can grow up to 28 feet long.
Now, experts' fears are mounting that the Burmese and African rock pythons will begin breeding--and give rise to a new, dangerous 'super snake.'The African rock pythons were initially thought to be a few escaped pets that could be contained--but the recent spate of discoveries shows that they may indeed be a brand new breeding population in the Everglades.
Says herpetologist Kenneth Krysko: “They are just mean, vicious snakes…. You couldn’t get a worse python to become established. A Burmese python is just a docile snake. These things will lunge at you”
Pythons are ‘constrictors’ which means they hold their prey with their teeth and crush them with their body; moulding them into a shape suitable for swallowing whole.
In Africa, the rock python eats creatures as large as goats and crocodiles. There have been cases of the snakes killing children.
Python sebae is the largest snake in Africa, and one of the largest in the world. As with most giant snakes, P. sebae exhibits female-biased sexual size dimorphism.
Although there are numerous claims about overall maximum size for this species (Murphy and Henderson 1997. Tales of Giant Snakes. Krieger Publ. Co., Malabar, Florida. 221 pp.), the largest individuals are likely females. Literature reviews suggest males attain maximum sizes of about 4m total length and 30-40 kg.
The python's top and bottom jaws are attached to each other with stretchy ligaments, which let the snake swallow animals wider that itself. Snakes don't chew their food, it is digested by very strong acids in the snake's stomach.