A Description of the five scrub species and localities of amethistina
There seems to be a fair amount of interest in scrub pythons, but allot of people tend to get confused over the various species and localities that are available.
I’ve written this guide in the hope that it will help people to better understand these beautiful and variable beasts.
As a side note, please feel free to add anything that you think I may have missed out.
THE SCRUB PYTHON COMPLEX
In 2000 Harvey, Barker, Ammerman and Chippindale wrote a paper on the scrub pythons, which up till then had been regarded as a single species Morelia amethistina, with one sub-species M.a kinghorni.
They concluded that the scrub pythons were actually a complex of snakes made up of five closely related species.
Below is a map and key showing where each species comes from
Brown - Morelia tracyae / Halmahera Island scrub python
Black - Morelia clastolepis / Moluccan Islands scrub python
Red - Morelia nauta / Tanimbar Islands scrub python
Gold - Morelia amethistina / New Guinea scrub python
Green - Morelia kinghorni / Queensland scrub python
The keen eyed amongst you will have spotted that I missed out the eastern half of New Guinea. The reason for this is that we have little to no data available to us regarding the scrubs from this part of the island. I will go in to more detail about this later.
A DESCRIPTION OF THE FIVE SPECIES
The Halmahera Island scrub is a large python that grows to 10ft, possibly bigger. It feeds on mammals, birds and has been spotted frequenting fruit bat roosts. Little is known about its reproduction and it has not yet been bred in captivity. WC animals have a high mortality rate in captivity and are very rare.
The Moluccan Islands scrub is a large snake that can grow to 10-13ft. It has a beautiful pattern when young that fades a little as the animal matures. Two naturally occurring colour morphs are known.
Xanthic - Golden brown with gold eyes
Axanthic - Black with black eyes
They breed well in captivity and are fairly common.
Pattern less axanthic
Patten less xanthic
The Tanimbar Islands scrub is the smallest of the complex not growing much over 6-7ft. It has four naturally occurring colour/pattern morphs.
Xanthic - Golden with golden eyes
Axanthic - Grey/brown with silver/golden eyes
Both these types can be un-patterned or patterned with small rosettes.
Its name nauta means sailor. This is because the islands it lives on have never been joined to any other so it could only have reached them by rafting. These have slowly started to become more available thru imports and small scale captive breeding.
The Queensland scrub is the largest of the complex averaging 15ft with a record of nearly 28ft. This makes it one of the longest snakes alive today. They are not legally exported from Australia so captive specimens are illegal, very hard to find and excessively expensive. They have been bred in very small numbers and I’m told there is a high mortality rate with the young.
The authors of the 2000 paper felt that there could be a further four or five species hiding under this name, but did not have enough data to prove it. As it stands the West Papua (Irian Jaya) scrubs are broken up in to three "races".
Here is a map of West Papua showing their locations
Gold - Northern race "barnecks"
Grey - Central Highlands race
Brown - Southern race
A note on localities - Snakes are normally given the locality name of the town they are exported from. This does not mean they came from that particular town and were probably collected hundreds of miles away. We only use locality names as a "rough guide" to snakes that occur in that particular area of the country.
The Northern barnecks
These are some of the most commonly available scrubs in captivity. They can grow to 10ft + with some individuals hitting 16-17ft. They are characterized by having black bars on the labial scales and on the back of the head and neck. They can be patterned, pattern less or somewhere in between. The ground colour is golden brown to slightly greenish.
Here are some of the localities available -
The Central Highlands
This area has two localities that have evolved isolated from the northern and southern forms. They grow to 10ft + and are rare in captivity.
These are also very common in captivity and are large snakes growing 10-13ft +. They are also found on the Aru Islands where their patterning can be quite variable and, strangely, an isolated population occurs on Biak Island far to the north.
Here are a few of the localities available –
Merauke (these can be pattern less)
Aru Islands type 1
Aru Islands type 2
Papua New Guinea
M. amethistina occurs throughout this half of the island and on to the Bismarck Archipelago, but they remain poorly studied. It is thought that the northern, central and southern pattern trends continue into PNG and the pictures I’ve seen taken by O’Shea (one of very few people to have worked with these animals) seem to confirm this. He has also stated that he has seen strangely patterned scrubs like the tiger striped one he encountered on episode 6, series 2 of O’Shea’s Big Adventure. Barker also talks about a scrub from New Ireland that had a pinkish hew to its body. As PNG do not legally export any animals it’s doubtful we will see any of these scrubs in the flesh.
In my opinoin the scrub pythons are possibly the most interesting group of snakes available to private keepers. They are intelligent, fast and stunningly beautiful serpents!
Sticky?! Such informative posts could perhaps have their own section.
Ipswich, Bury, Stowmarket, Hadleigh, Sudbury, Colchester, Felixstowe, Woodbridge, Manningtree Etc. click here
A great thread and one which i love.
Ive got a future article coming out on this excalt thing for the PRK mag, mainly with photos of them in the wild or ones took by myself.
The Oksibils are a cracking locality, that looks like one of Rob Taggett's snakes aswell. Hes got some cracking high orange females.
With regards to the morelia nauta theres 5 colours. the 5th is a stripped axanthic. i believe Blake Bauer was working with this one.
there were some for sale last year in houten but no way in hell was a pair of CH worth 2200 euros
The young Morelia clastolepis posted isnt the typical look of a youngster from my personal experince, all the ones i had hatch looked nothing like that and that was from a pairing of standard adults.
Appologises i it has me across as nit picking as i dint mean it to
I think its a cracking thread. You should post the scalation counts for each species.
I have the orignal taxonomy papers from the barkers i can try dig out if you want?
nice work mate
we should get together with all our aus/indo species and do a proper decent thread covering ALL of the species. from olive to paupan and timor to tracyae
Iv seen the striped nauta. Iv heard them called an "insular island" form. I didnt include them because little is known about them and striping could be an artifact of incubation. Ill include them when i see pics of loads of them in the wild
If you look at the tag with the pic of the young clasto it says Juvenile and not hatchling. Hatchling morelia always look very different to their final colours. The one in the pic is probably a year or so old when its colours and pattern are very bright. To be fare it is an exceptional looking clasto. Would love to have it in my collection!
I thought about scale counts and more in depth write ups for the species and localities but eventualy decided against it. I wanted the thread to act as a visual guide, a quick refference if you will, so that if people saw a snake on the net or in a shop or even heard a name being discussed, they'd have a place where they can quickly look up the type of scrub it was. Technical info like scale counts might have bogged the thread down for the less nerdy herper's out there. Yes, I am a snake nerd!
I already own a copy of Barker's paper thanks. And id encourage anyone else who's seriously interested in these animals to get hold of a copy as well. He can be contacted thru his website www.vpi.com If your polite and ask nicely he may have a few copys left he could send out.
Thanks for the kind words mate. Give us a shout about the Indo thread.
I know the orginal parents from Eriks in germany were from the wild. However like me he incubates them maternally and thus has less control over them. However that aside the parents were still striped.
Your more trational looking moluccans look like this
The other thing that might be worth mentioning is with regards to the change in colour of them, this ONLY becomes duller in females, males get brighter and retain there young colours due to the species being sexually dimorphic
To be fair to see a scrub on sale in most shops is a rare sight in its own right but you want to snap it up when possible.
I am just a big fan of fine detail. Especially so with scrubs because there's so much untrue crap written up on them and they suffer terribly from undeserved reputations.
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