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Olive Python - Liasis olivaceus
Olive Python - Liasis olivaceus

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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Pythonidae
Genus: Liasis
Species: Liasis olivaceus

Common name  Subspecies   Taxon author   Geographic range
  • Pilbara Olive Python   Liasis olivaceus barroni   Smith, 1981     Australia in the Pilbara region of Western Australia
  • Olive Python    Liasis olivaceus olivaceus   Gray, 1842    Australia from the Kimberley region in Western Australia to the area around Mount Isa in Queensland

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Distribution of the olive python

Liasis olivaceus, commonly called the olive python, is a python species found in Australia. Two subspecies are currently recognized, including the nominate subspecies described here.

With adults reaching over 4 m in length, this is Australia's second-largest snake species. Its high midbody dorsal scale count, 61-72, makes the skin look smoother than that of other pythons. The number of ventral scales is 355-377. The colour pattern is a uniform chocolate brown to olive green, while the belly is usually cream coloured.
Unfortunately, this species is occasionally confused with the venomous King Brown SnakePseudechis australis, and killed as a consequence.

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Geographic range
This snake is found in Australia in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland. The type locality given is "North Australia; Port Essington" (Northern Territory, Australia).

It occurs in rocky areas, gorges and especially rocky areas near sources of water. Typically, shelter is sought in caves and rock crevices, but individuals have also been found in hollow logs and in burrows under rocks.

The diet consists of birds, mammals and other reptiles, including rock-wallabies, fruit bats, ducks and spinifex pigeons. They prefer to lie in wait next to animal trails to ambush their prey. Alternatively, they are strong swimmers and also hunt in waterholes, striking at prey from under the water. They have also been known to prey on monitor lizards, and Crocodiles.

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Mating activity starts in May and continue through until mid-July. When successful, this is followed by a gestation period of 81–85 days, after which the oviparous females lay 12-40 eggs in late spring. The average clutch size is around 19 eggs. The hatchlings emerge after an incubation period of about 50 days, each measuring about 35 cm in length.
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Pictures: How a Python Can Swallow a Crocodile
Snakes regularly eat items 75 to 100 percent their size.

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An olive python has a Johnson's crocodile in a stranglehold, as seen in a mobile phone image from Queensland, Australia.


Jennifer S. Holland
for National Geographic

In an epic battle in northern Queensland, Australia, a 10-foot olive python got the best of a Johnson's crocodile, and a lucky passerby snapped photos.

We talked to Terry Phillip, curator of reptiles at Reptile Gardens in Rapid City, South Dakota, about python-croc relations and portion control at mealtime.

These photos suggest two monstrous animals battling, and then a snake that might just regret its meal later. Is this a rare moment that someone happened to capture or just a standard day in the wild?

First, these animals aren't giants. That snake is likely about 15 or 20 pounds [7 to 9 kilograms], and the croc might be 5 to 7 pounds [2 to 3 kilograms], probably three feet [one meter] long. And for these species, native to that part of Australia, this is a very natural event. While that looks like a really big meal, it's a pretty common one for that type of snake. Olive snakes are known for being phenomenally powerful, pound for pound, and for feeding on large food items.

What danger is there to the snake in this scenario?

Teeth. The croc's teeth could razor right through that snake. If the croc could then shake its head, it could do real damage—but it probably wouldn't have that chance here. That's one reason snakes intentionally go for the neck and shoulder region when they attack, to try to avoid being bitten themselves. They'll grab on just behind the skull and coil up to hold the croc in place. But even if a snake is bitten, it has a phenomenal immune system and can fight off many infections. We see huge scars on wild snakes; they do get beaten up by their prey.

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The python vs. croc duel to the death continues.

Would the snake always win in this scenario?

Not necessarily. Both of these are apex predators in their environment. Big Johnson's crocs eat little pythons and vice versa.

How does a constrictor like a python know when it's "safe" to let go and eat?

Snakes are very sensitive to their prey's heartbeat. Normally a python will constrict until the animal asphyxiates and the heart stops. But crocs can go a long time without oxygen. In this case I'd guess that the snake constricted with such force that it compressed the chest cavity until the croc's heart had no room to beat. So the croc probably died of cardiac arrest rather than suffocation.

We always hear that snakes can "unhinge" or dislocate their jaws to eat big food. Is that what's going on?

No. Snakes have no chin, no chin bone, so their jaws aren't connected the way ours are. There's nothing to dislocate. Instead there are really stretchy ligaments that determine how wide the mouth can open.

Snakes seem to "know" to eat their prey from the narrowest point—the mouth end—which makes the animal easiest to swallow; is this instinctive?

There's probably some instinct at work there. It's a particular behavior you see with snakes in the wild and captivity. After killing the animal they'll let go and rest. Then before eating they'll search around using their nostrils and tongue to find the smell of saliva from the animal. That's the end they want. With crocs there isn't saliva per se, but maybe the smell of mucus does the trick.

What's the biggest prey item you've heard of one eating?

It was a scrub python—closely related to olives—that ate a wallaby that was about 110 percent of its body weight. That was a good-size meal. But snakes regularly eat items 75 to 100 percent their size.

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After crushing the crocodile to death, the python begins to eat it face first.

What do you make of the case in Florida in which a Burmese python's body burst after eating a crocodile? Did the snake use bad judgment about how much it could handle?

Snakes may occasionally start eating something and then abandon it after realizing it's too big. But that's not usual. Here's what actually happened in Florida. The snake successfully killed and ate the croc, swallowed the whole thing. The snake did win. But Florida is an unnatural environment for that snake species; it's not as warm as the snake's habitat in Southeast Asia. So the snake couldn't digest fast enough to keep the food from rotting. Once it started to rot inside the snake, the snake began to die. Its body split open because of that process, not because the croc was too large.

Back to Australia, after eating the Johnson's croc, how long might that olive python go without eating?

These are ambush predators, so the snake isn't likely to pass up another meal that came along. It would go relatively dormant for about ten days to digest, but over the next three weeks it would take what it could get. However, the caloric needs of that type of snake is pretty low. It could certainly go the rest of the season without a meal.

What parts of the croc can the snake use for energy?

All the bones, flesh, and organs are digested and used. A lot of scales will pass through, and the teeth, over the two to three weeks after the kill. Things with keratin and enamel aren't digestible, so they'll come back out. 
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Ceratodromeus Wrote:Predation of a northern quoll by an olive python. account  from, Predation on a marsupial carnivore by an olive python(Liasis olivaceus) and a King brown snake (Pseudechis australis) Oakwood & Miles:
Quote:"...the first occured on 7th June 1993, when an adult male quoll that had weighed 770g when trapped three days earlier was being radio tracked. the radio signal led to a satiated 2.6 meter olive python(Liasis olivaeceus) resting in a hollow termite mound in eucalypt woodland. The moun was approximatly 1.2 meters high and 1 meter in diameter, and had been constructed by tree piping termites(Coptotermes acinacifomis). Although northern uolls are known to use termite mounds as dens,  it was not possible to determine whether the quoll had been captured in the termite mound, or whilst foraging.

Ceratodromeus Wrote:Relevant to predation on freshwater crocodiles, here's a python with a young C.Johnstoni in its stomach
(Photo from The Role of Predation in Shaping Crocodilian Natural History)
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Ceratodromeus Wrote:Another predation event on a freshwater crocodile
Snake eats crocodile in a midnight feast with teeth in WA's Kimberley
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"Two men driving across a Kimberley river crossing late at night could not believe their eyes when they found a large snake eating a crocodile.

A tangle of scaly bodies caught the eye of Wayne Chevis while he was driving with a friend on Sunday from his workplace at the Lake Argyle Caravan Park to Darwin, to catch a flight to be at a wedding in Tasmania.

"I've never seen anything like that before. I've never seen a snake eating a crocodile, so it was quite eye-opening," Mr Chevis said.
A large python had grabbed a freshwater crocodile at the river crossing on the road to Lake Argyle, and was constricting the reptile with coils of its muscular body.

"The snake, I reckon if you dragged him out and measured him he probably would have been about two-and-a-half, almost three metres long," Mr Chevis said.

"He was quite a big snake, quite thick."

Snake wins this battle

Despite the ferocious reputation of crocodiles, this time the croc was the hapless victim, according to Mr Chevis.

"There were no injuries on the snake at all, so I think the snake had the upper hand completely in that little battle that was happening," he said.

Having grown up in Kakadu National Park where his stepfather was a ranger, Mr Chevis has witnessed snakes eating a range of animals, but never a crocodile.

"I've seen snakes eat crocodile eggs, and of course snakes eat turtles, and geese and other birds, lizards of course and goannas, but I've never seen a snake eating a crocodile," he said.

The photos captured on his phone have been a major talking point since Mr Chevis arrived in Tasmania for the wedding.

"There are a lot of expletive words said about it," he said.

"No one's very keen on snakes and crocodiles down here, let alone a snake eating a crocodile." "
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Python Swallows Crocodile Whole. Photographer Captures Every Last, Grisly 'Bite.'

By Stephanie Pappas, Live Science Contributor | July 10, 2019 06:22am ET

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In the global battle between pythons and crocodiles, chalk one up for the snakes. A grisly new series of photos shows an olive python (Liasis olivaceus) scarfing down an Australian freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus johnstoni).

The photos come courtesy GG Wildlife Rescue Inc., a nonprofit in Australia, which shared them on its Facebook page on May 31. The images were taken near Mount Isa, Queensland, by kayaker Martin Muller.
Pythons are known for their dietary ambition. The large snakes have been found with the remains of everything — from deer larger than themselvesand impalas to prickly porcupines — in their bellies. These snakes also happily eat one another, as witnessed in May in Western Australia. On very rare occasions, some python species will even attack and eat humans.
Pythons also have been known to go head-to-head with crocodiles and alligators. In an infamous case in 2005, a Burmese python in Florida's Everglades National Park was found burst open and dead with an American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) sticking out of its gut. Burmese pythons (Python bivittatus), which can grow as large as 18.8 feet (5.74 meters) long, are an invasive species in Florida.
The olive python, on the other hand, is native to Australia and is found only there. This species can grow to up to 13 feet (4 m) long. Clashes with Australia's "freshies" (the local nickname for freshwater crocodiles) are common. In 2014, an olive python was video-recorded killing and eating a freshwater crocodile at Lake Moondarra, which is near Mount Isa. In that case, it took five hours for the snake to slowly stretch its jaws around the constricted croc.
Pythons are able to perform amazing feats of swallowing thanks to their elastic jaws. The snakes' lower jawbones are divided into two parts, connected by an elastic ligament, which allows the bones to spread apart. When a python has a prey animal subdued, the snake first "walks" over it, a process called the pterygoid walk. Then, the snake uses its jaw to hang onto the prey while compressing its muscles and slithering around the subdued animal until the meal is engulfed.
Pythons also have a number of genetic adaptations that help them to digest huge meals all at once. Research published in 2013 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that Burmese pythons rapidly alter their metabolism after they eat, and even increase the size of their internal organs (including the intestines, pancreas, heart and kidneys) to handle the influx of calories.
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