Woma python (Aspidites ramsayi)

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Woma python coiled at the base of a tree
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Woma python fact file

Woma python description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyBoidae
GenusAspidites (1)

The woma python is distinguished from other Australian pythons by its narrow head which is barely distinct from the neck (2). It has small eyes, smooth scales, a broad body and a thin tail (3). This species is coloured grey, olive, brown or rich red-brown above, with several darker olive brown to black cross-bands on the body. The sides are paler and the underside is a cream to yellow colour, with pink or brown blotches (2). The woma python and its relative the black-headed python, do not have heat sensitive pits bordering the mouth like other pythons (4).

Also known as
Ramsay's python, sand python.
French
Python De Ramsay.
Spanish
Pitón De Ramsay.
Size
Length: 1.5 m (2)
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Woma python biology

This species is nocturnal, and preys upon a variety of terrestrial vertebrates such as small mammals, ground birds and lizards (2). It catches much of its prey in burrows where there is not enough room to throw its coils around it. Instead the woma pushes a loop of its body against the animal so it is crushed to death against the side of the burrow. Many adult womas are covered in scars from retaliating rodents as this technique doesn’t kill prey as quickly as normal constriction. By day it shelters in hollow logs, animal burrows or thick vegetation (5).

Like other pythons this snake lays eggs (4). Mating occurs from May to August and between 5 and 19 eggs are deposited between September and October. Females coil around their eggs throughout the incubation period, and after two to three months the young emerge (5).

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Woma python range

This species is found in the Australian interior, from central Australia into the south-western edge of Queensland, and into northern South Australia. There is also one coastal area in north-eastern Australia around the Pilbara coast where this species is found (5).

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Woma python habitat

Inhabits arid zones, favouring open myrtaceous heath on sandplains and dune fields that are dominated by spinifex grass (Triodia species) (2).

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Woma python status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Schedule 4 (Specially Protected Fauna) of the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act (2).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Woma python threats

Populations have been affected by the clearing of habitat for agricultural development and grazing in Australia. Habitat loss not only removes the woma python’s shelter, but also depletes the abundance of small vertebrates in the area. Predation by introduced foxes has also played a part in the woma python’s decline in Australia (2) (5).

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Woma python conservation

This species is listed on Schedule 4 of the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act which classifies it as Specially Protected Fauna (2). Under the Australian Protected Areas Programme, a 132,566 hectare area has been established to protect species including the woma python (6). It is important to provide incentives for landowners in this area to reduce the impact of current land use practises on this species (2). Population surveys should be conducted on the woma python both within and outside of this reserve in order to best target conservation practices (2).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For more on the woma python see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
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Glossary

Nocturnal
Active at night
Vertebrates
Animals with a backbone.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Nature base, Department of Environment and Conservation, Western Australia (June, 2008)
    http://www.naturebase.net/component/option,com_docman/task,cat_view/Itemid,1288/gid,374/orderby,dmdatecounter/ascdesc,DESC/
  3. Browne-Cooper, R., Bush, B., Maryan, B. and Robinson, D. (2007) Reptiles and Frogs in the Bush: Southwestern Australia. University of Western Australia Press, Western Australia.
  4. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Cogger, H.G. (1992) Reptiles and amphibians of Australia. Reed Books, Australia.
  6. UNEP-WCMC: Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Australia (November, 2003)
    http://www.unep-wcmc.org/sites/wh/pdf/Uluru-Kata%20Tjuta.pdf
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Image credit

Woma python coiled at the base of a tree  
Woma python coiled at the base of a tree

© Steve Wilson

Steve Wilson
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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