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(vertebrate zoology)
A subfamily of the reptilian family Boidae distinguished anatomically by the skull structure and the presence of a pair of vestigial hindlegs in the form of stout, movable spurs.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a subfamily of snakes of the family Boidae. The snakes are distributed in the eastern and western (Central America) hemispheres. There are six genera, embracing 22 species. The genus Python has seven species, three of which are found in tropical Africa and four in southern and southeastern Asia (eastward to Taiwan, the Philippines, and Molucca). The snakes range in length from 1.5 m (ball python; Python regius) to 10 m (reticulated python). The reticulated python, one of the largest species of snakes, weighs up to 100 kg. The coloration ranges from more or less monochromatic (brown or reddish brown tones) to brightly spotted. Pythons, which live primarily in rushes, among reeds, and among stones, are good swimmers and divers. Sometimes they crawl up large trees.

Pythons feed mainly on mammals; the large species swallow jackals, leopards, porcupines, and young boars. The snakes also eat birds, large lizards, and toads; the young snakes eat mostly insects. There have been reports of pythons attacking humans. The snakes hold their prey with their teeth, simultaneously squeezing it with their body. Pythons are oviparous. The female lays as many as 107 eggs, which reach 9 cm in length. She wraps herself around them, since the temperature inside the coils formed by her body is several degrees higher than that of the surrounding air.

Pythons live up to 25 years in captivity. The flesh of some species is edible, and the skin of many species is used to make various articles.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.