What Is a Clown Ball Python?

Marlene Garcia
Marlene Garcia

A clown ball python represents a genetically altered snake with an irregular pattern and comical face. Some reptile owners say the face resembles a circus clown, making it one of the most popular pythons sought by reptile collectors. Also called the royal python, the clown ball python is one of several species bred in captivity.

The clown ball python is native to west central Africa and lives up to 40 years in the wild and longer in captivity. Pythons represent the longest-living snake, followed by the boa constrictor. A clown ball python is one of the smallest snakes in the python family, growing to 6.5 feet (2 meters) at maturity. Other varieties of pythons might reach 33 feet long (10 meters) when fully grown.

Clown ball python breeders hope to achieve skin patterns and colors that increase the snakes’ value as exotic pets. Some snakes with light coloring are called pastel clown ball pythons or super pastel clown ball pythons. Snakes born with very unusual or comical features fetch higher prices.

Ball pythons get their name from a defense mechanism when predators approach. They curl into balls and tuck their heads into the center of the coil. Some predators view coiled snakes as too large to swallow and move on to smaller prey.

Pythons are listed as primitive snakes because they possess remnants of hind limbs, dual lungs, and part of a pelvic bone. They use tiny anal spurs to grasp onto a mate during mating season. Some scientists believe these characteristic provide visible signs that snakes evolved on land.

A female clown ball python produces a dozen or more eggs after breeding, which are piled up and completely surrounded by the female’s body. During the incubation period, which can last between 40 and 100 days, the female might shiver to keep the eggs warm if the temperature drops too low. This process requires much of the female’s energy, especially since she rarely eats during the incubation period. She is unable to produce eggs again until she regains weight lost from this process.

Pythons rest in areas where they can use camouflage to hide their presence. Small organs in their lips sense heat emitted by prey, but some pythons rely on smell to find food. They typically strike without warning when a food source gets near.

Pythons eat rodents and other small mammals, with the larger of the species capable of consuming pigs and goats. They snag prey with their teeth before wrapping around the animal and constricting muscles until it stops breathing. Snakes swallow the animal whole and might take weeks to fully digest it. Some people fear these large reptiles, but they rarely attack humans.

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