September 2012

Maternal python

A Carpet Python was curled around her eggs in my garden at Mt Glorious last summer. They took 111 days to hatch. Is this normal?

Answer

Carpet Python curled around her eggs. Photo by Steve Wilson

Maternal care is rare among reptiles but pythons are an exception. Most reptiles either lay eggs or give birth and play no further role in their care. Female pythons guard their eggs until they hatch. The eggs are soft-shelled, and just after laying the female coils around her eggs, pressing them together so they adhere into a single mass. She leaves the eggs only to bask nearby. Heat she acquires is transferred to her clutch when she returns. During cool weather, the python can even generate heat metabolically by producing shivering movements. The incubation time for Carpet Pythons averages 56 days but this depends on temperature. Last summer was cooler than usual, delaying the incubation of this clutch to nearly double. The diligent mother, who does not feed during this period, went beyond the call of duty.

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