Field Note: Green Tree Python
Green Tree Python Blends Skillfully Into Its Habitat
The green tree python at Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House isn’t easy to spot; its rich green skin blends in easily with the foliage of its exhibit. But once the snake does catch your eye, it’s hard not to linger in appreciation.
Native to New Guinea and Australia’s Cape York, green tree pythons spend most of their lives in the trees they call home. Reaching up to 7 feet in length, they prey on rodents, reptiles and even bats. Ambush predators, the snakes dangle from their strong, prehensile tails, waiting to snatch and constrict prey that wanders within range. (The zoo’s green tree python feeds on a large mouse every two weeks, a diet matched to his naturally slow metabolism.)
The namesake green color provides excellent camouflage, making it hard for prey to detect this predator before it’s too late. The colorful adaptation also hides the snake from larger predators looking to make a meal of it.
At hatching, though, green tree pythons come out of the egg with either yellow or red scales accented with white spots. These juvenile markings may help them blend in with the daytime forest-edge habitat where they make their homes as they grow. Later, as the larger snakes shift to a nocturnal life in the forest canopy, they adopt their adult green appearance.
At the zoo, the resident green tree python doesn’t need to hide from predators—or lie in wait for prey. But he blends in all the same, showcasing the evolutionary heritage that has helped this species thrive.
By James Seidler • Published July 10, 2014 • Originally published in Summer 2014 Lincoln Park Zoo Magazine