Scientific Name: Antaresia maculosa
Ariane Szmajda, Berowra Heights
These snakes are famous for their unusual method of catching one of their favourite foods – insectivorous bats. Spotted pythons hang upside down at the entrance to caves, using their tails to hold on to the rock so that their body is free. When the tiny bats fly out of the cave, the snakes grab them mid-flight and eat them while they’re still hanging there.
The spotted python is one of the shortest python species, growing to only a metre. Its ‘spots’ are really blotches of dark brown on a light brown background. Sometimes the spots join together so they look almost like stripes, especially near the head and tail. Due to their short length, lack of venom and docile nature, spotted pythons are often kept as pets.
Spotted pythons are found on the north-east to eastern coast of Australia, from Cape York in Queensland to northern NSW. They favour wet forests to dry woodlands, river banks, and areas with rocks, particularly caves that are home to bats.
When spotted pythons are young, they mainly feed on small lizards. As they age they feed on bats and other small mammals, plus reptiles and birds. As with all pythons, they kill their prey by constriction. Spotted pythons hunt nocturnally.
Females lay on average 10 eggs, which they incubate by coiling around them and shivering to increase the temperature. After about 80 days, the young tear open their leathery shells and then wait, sometimes up to two days. When all the young are ready, they leave the nest en masse at the same time. It is quite a sight!