If you were to explore the rainforests of Australia, you might come across a large coil draped over a tree branch. This coil is an animal – a green tree python (Morelia viridis). These snakes are known for their bright colors which change dramatically over the course of their lives. There are a lot is mysteries about these reclusive snakes, including how they defend themselves from predators and other threats.
Green tree pythons primarily use camouflage as a means to protect themselves from predators, blending in well with their natural tree-covered surroundings. Predators to the green tree python include some species of predatory birds as well as some carnivorous mammals and lizards. If provoked, these snakes will quickly turn aggressive, biting at the perceived threat with their long, sharp, recurved teeth.
We’ll cover everything you need to know about a green tree python’s defense mechanisms and how they survive in the wild. You’ll learn more about how they avoid detection by opportunistic predators.
What Are The Predators of a Green Tree Python in The Wild?
While the green tree python is a carnivore and a predator itself, several species of animals consider the green tree python their prey. The following species will hunt, attack, and eat green tree pythons:
- Predatory birds: rufous owls, black butcherbirds, and diurnal raptors
- Carnivorous mammals: dingoes and New Guinea quolls
- Other reptiles: mangrove monitors
While many green tree pythons are bred in captivity each year for the purposes of the pet trade, wild populations are still sought out and captured by humans. This has significantly decreased the numbers of green tree pythons in the wild. For this reason, in Australia, it is illegal to import green tree pythons which originated in New Guinea.
Green tree pythons are also vulnerable to the destruction of their habitat. Logging has destroyed their forests, and slash and burn agriculture has replaced the rainforest canopies that these pythons live in with farm fields.
Sometimes green tree pythons are killed for their skin, as well. Snakeskin pants, vests, and boots are popular, and the vibrant green color of a green tree python is appealing to people who like to wear snakeskin clothes.
How Does a Green Tree Python Protect Itself?
Green tree pythons have two main strategies to protect themselves from threats. The first involves avoiding the conflict in the first place, while the second involves fighting back.
Green tree pythons use of camouflage to keep themselves hidden from potential threats. Juvenile green tree pythons, with their brighter colors such as yellow, blend in well with the lighting in forest edges or canopy gaps. This keeps the young snakes hidden from threats while they stay in this part of their habitat looking for prey small enough for them to eat.
Adult green tree pythons, on the other hand, blend in best in their neighborhood of choice – the darker closed canopy of the rainforest, where larger prey can be hunted.
However, according to Zoo Biology, juveniles and adults have similar preferences for the backgrounds they seek out to blend in with. If given the option between a perch that is a lighter color such as white or yellow, and a perch which is a darker color such as black or brown, the green tree python will consistently choose the darker colored perch.
This is true of green tree pythons of all ages, even when they are young and yellow. Choosing a darker perch is a good habit to have, as seeking out dark spots in tree branches will serve the snake well when they grow up to be a darker green.
When a green tree python sits in a tree, it loops a coil around the branches and places its head in the middle of that coil. This means they do not sit stretched out, which makes them not look very much like a snake. Their unusual posture, combined with their coloring and careful perch selection, is often enough to let them go unnoticed by a passing predator.
What Does A Green Tree Python Look Like?
These snakes are relatively small. They do not have much sexual dimorphism as adults. However, when they are hatchlings, female green tree pythons have wider and longer heads than male green tree pythons. They have yellow or green eyes with narrow vertical slits for pupils.
- Average Adult Length: 1.5 meters (about 5 feet)
- Record Adult Length: 2.2 meters (about 7 feet)
- Average Length At Birth: 30.5 centimeters (about 1 foot)
Green tree pythons go through a beautiful transformation of colors as they age. This change from the bright yellow or red of their youth to the darker green of adulthood usually does not happen in a single shedding period. While these snakes can change their color overnight, it can take several months to fully change over.
- Adult Dorsal Scale Color: Green, maybe with a yellow or white ridge
- Adult Ventral Scale Color: Yellow or white
- Juvenile Scale Color Variations: Bright yellow, brown, or red with white blotches
If a green tree python is provoked by another creature, it will bite. These snakes are easily agitated and become protective in the face of a threat.
Green tree pythons may not have venomous fangs, but they do have very sharp teeth. Their jaw is powerful enough to leave a mark and make a predator think twice about messing with them.
Are Green Tree Pythons Aggressive?
Green tree pythons are generally docile while sitting in their trees all day. However, they can become very aggressive when provoked.
Male green tree pythons are especially aggressive when they are in the process of looking for a mate. Each snake wants to be the one to successfully breed.
Females become more aggressive when they have a clutch of eggs to protect as well. That clutch may include up to thirty eggs.
Are Green Tree Pythons Venomous?
These snakes are not venomous, so you do not need to worry about becoming envenomated if a green tree python should bite you.
However, it is still possible for a bite to become infected. If you are bitten by a green tree python, seek out medical attention.
What Teeth Do Green Tree Pythons Have?
A single green tree python may have more than one hundred teeth. These teeth are very sharp and come in many rows. This helps them feed on their prey, which mainly includes rodents, tree lizards, and some birds.
Green tree pythons do not have fangs. They do, however, have long, recurved teeth. Recurved teeth are specialized in allowing the snake to maintain a grip on a struggling prey animal.
Since these snakes live high up in tree branches, it’s important for them to keep a tight grip with those sharp teeth and not drop their prey. The snake is able to hang from a tree by its strong prehensile tail while it eats its prey.
Are Green Tree Pythons a Threat To Humans?
Green tree pythons do not pose a threat to humans. As with many species of snake, humans pose a greater threat to them.
Green tree pythons do not have venom, and so humans do not need to worry much about their bites besides the usual pain and infection you could get from any cut. Nevertheless, instances of biting a human are rare.
If a green tree python feels threatened by a human, then it may attack. A green tree python would much rather use its camouflage to hide from a threat, and it does not actively seek out a conflict with humans.