Desert Ghost Ball Python

Python regius

Last updated: October 15, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Deb Davis/Shutterstock.com

Desert ghost ball pythons are even more beautiful when they're bred with another type like enchi ball pythons.

Desert Ghost Ball Python Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Squamata
Family
Pythonidae
Genus
Python
Scientific Name
Python regius

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Desert Ghost Ball Python Conservation Status

Desert Ghost Ball Python Locations

Desert Ghost Ball Python Locations

Desert Ghost Ball Python Facts

Prey
rats, mice, birds, lizards
Main Prey
rats and mice
Group Behavior
  • Solitary except during mating season
Fun Fact
Desert ghost ball pythons are even more beautiful when they're bred with another type like enchi ball pythons.
Most Distinctive Feature
Blushing along the sides, slightly faded head stripes.
Other Name(s)
enhancer ball python
Incubation Period
50-60 days
Litter Size
3-15
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Nocturnal
Favorite Food
rats and mice
Origin
Imported ball pythons

Desert Ghost Ball Python Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Yellow
  • Black
  • White
  • Gold
Skin Type
Scales
Lifespan
20-30 years
Weight
5-8 pounds
Length
4-6 feet
Age of Sexual Maturity
2-4 years
Venomous
No
Aggression
Low

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Desert ghost ball pythons are beautiful, but when bred to other ball python morphs, they make everything even more beautiful.

These snakes were first produced in 2003 and since then have found their way into many different ball pythons morphs because of their ability to improve and clarify patterns and colors. Desert ghost ball pythons are widely available from breeders and are just as easy to care for as other ball pythons.

Incredible Desert Ghost Python Facts

  • The desert ghost gene is compatible with many traits and brightens and cleans up patterns.
  • It starts as a bright yellow in the alien heads and fades to gray as it ages.
  • Some people believe that desert ghost and enhancer lines are the same genes.

Desert Ghost Ball Python Scientific Name and Classification

Desert ghost ball pythons are a particular color pattern of ball pythons. They are members of the Pythonidae family, along with other ball pythons, and their scientific name is Python regius.

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Their scientific name means royal or kingly python and reflects the possible practice of wearing ball pythons. In some accounts, they were the pets of royalty, who were said to wear them on their arms or around their necks as jewelry.

Ball pythons became popular as pets in the 1970s. Since then, they’ve become one of the most popular snake pets. Many designer morphs have a percentage of desert ghost genes that contribute to their beauty.

Desert Ghost Ball Python Appearance

Desert Ghost Ball python
Like other ball pythons, desert ghost ball pythons are ambush predators.

Deb Davis/Shutterstock.com


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Like other ball pythons, desert ghost ball pythons have thick stocky bodies and triangular heads. They also have blunt snouts and a mouth full of rear-facing, razor-sharp teeth. These snakes can reach 6 feet long but most often stay smaller. In ball pythons, females tend to be bigger than males, and when one gets to 6 feet long, it’s usually a female.

The pattern of the desert ghost ball python morph doesn’t look all that different from wild patterned ball pythons. However, its alien head patterns are pretty bright yellow, and its head stripes are faded when you compare them to a normal ball python. The body pattern tends to begin with alien heads with gravelly looks. As it ages, the yellow of the alien heads fades to cream or gray with a yellow-gold tint. The dark areas stay dark with blushing.

Desert Ghost Ball Python Behavior

Like other ball pythons, desert ghost ball pythons are ambush predators. While you won’t find many of these out in the wild, if you find one, these snakes behave much like their wild cousins. They slither straight forward, using the rectilinear movement that allows them to move right underneath all the underbrush without being seen.

These solitary animals should not be housed together in the same habitat unless they’re breeding. Co-habitating them often causes unnecessary stress and needs to be avoided.

They’re quite docile, which is part of what makes them so attractive as pets. Desert ghost ball pythons are generally easy-going snakes that don’t mind a bit of gentle handling. Many pet snakes recognize their handlers after a while and develop a level of trust in their favorite person.

Desert Ghost Ball Python Morph Characteristics

Desert ghosts were first produced in 2003 by Mark and Kimberly Bell of Reptile Industries from imported parents they had purchased several years earlier.

But there’s a catch; the desert ghost isn’t the only type that looks and behaves similarly. In 2002, Marc Bouchard and Michael Perry at RegiusCo imported a yearling female with bright yellow markings. After some initial difficulty keeping her alive, she matured into a beautiful adult. Later, when they bred her to other males, the offspring often had brighter, cleaner markings, so they dubbed her gene the “Enhancer.”

Breeders have crossed other morphs with the desert ghost gene and enhancer gene; in some cases, the lines are mixed and indistinguishable. Other breeders keep the lines separate. Regardless, its usefulness becomes apparent when you combine snakes with either gene with others like enchi, yellow belly, or pastel. They have a way of making everything better by cleaning up patterns and brightening colors.

Both lines are compatible with each other and many other morphs. Moreover, their usefulness in brightening and cleaning up patterns is likely to continue in many morphs for a long time.

Desert Ghost Ball Python Habitat

In the wild, you’ll find ball pythons in over a dozen countries. They inhabit central and western Africa’s grasslands, forests, and farm fields. BeninBurkina FasoCameroonCentral African Republic, CongoChadDR CongoCôte d’IvoireGambiaGhanaGuinea, MaliGuinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Sierra LeoneSouth SudanTogo, and Uganda are all home to the ball python.

Ball pythons with the desert ghost gene may look different than others, but they have the same needs. These snakes need a reasonably large enclosure with multiple hides, vines, and other things to give them a sense of security as they explore and safe places to sleep.

Keeping the temperature and humidity stable in their habitat is vital, as ball pythons with humidity too high or low can have problems, including difficulty shedding, respiratory disease, and scale rot. In addition, snakes are cold-blooded and need heat from the surrounding environment. Optimal temperatures are between 85-95 with about 60% humidity.

Desert Ghost Ball Python Diet

Their diet in the wild consists of small rodents, nestling birds, and sometimes lizards. Ball pythons are lazy hunters and wait to ambush their prey when it stumbles too close. In captivity, they’re happy to take rats and mice, depending upon their size.

Ball pythons are notorious for going on months-long hunger strikes. As long as they aren’t losing weight and are otherwise healthy, it’s not usually a problem.

Desert Ghost Ball Python Predators, Threats, Conservation, and Population

In the wild, the IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species lists ball pythons as near threatened. Their populations are decreasing, particularly in Benin, Togo, and Ghana; countries that export them in the largest numbers.

Since 1975, over 3 million ball pythons have been exported from Africa, and as a result, their wild numbers are dwindling. However, it’s not just the exportation that’s affecting their population. Ball pythons are hunted for meat, leather, and traditional medicine. Their population is also under fire because people are expanding their agricultural production and removing habitat ball pythons previously inhabited.

However, the desert ghost and other ball pythons aren’t likely to have any survival issues. These snakes are bred and sold as pets worldwide. They’re easily the most popular pet snake because they are easy to care for and easy-going.

Desert Ghost Ball Python Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

Many snakes are long-lived, and ball pythons are no exception. They can live 20-30 years in captivity but less than that in the wild. They mature in 2-4 years, but for females, it’s as much an issue of body mass as it is age. Unless they’ve got the mass to support follicle development and gestation, they won’t breed. In the wild, most female ball pythons only breed every other year.

Ball pythons generally lay 3-15 eggs which hatch after about 50 days of incubation. The female coils herself around the eggs to help the process and protect them. She only leaves to warm herself up or allow the eggs to cool if it’s too warm. When the babies hatch, they are on their own immediately. While they may stay close to the next for a few days, after that, they’ll probably never see their siblings again.

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About the Author

Gail is a musician, author, and artist with more ideas than time. She loves learning about all things in the natural world. Her upcoming book, Pebble Worms and Fast Walkers is filled with all the random bits that kids love! She lives in North Texas with her husband, twin sons, dogs, cat, two red-eared sliders, and two ball pythons.

Desert Ghost Ball Python FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Why do people consider the Enhancer and Desert Ghost to be the same gene?

It’s because those same people don’t see a difference in the visual expression of the trait. It’s probably the same reason that some see turquoise and teal as the same, and others see an obvious difference.

What is a designer ball python?

It’s the specialty colors and patterns that breeders have achieved. These pythons often fetch high prices, and are a form of living art.

What do desert ghost ball pythons eat?

Like most snakes, they’re obligate carnivores and cannot live on anything except meat. These snakes like rodents and nestling birds, sometimes wild juveniles will eat lizards.

Where do desert ghost ball pythons live?

While the first few were random mutations imported from Africa, those we see in homes worldwide have mostly been captive-bred.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. D'Cruze, N., Wilms, T., Penner, J., Luiselli, L., Jallow, M., Segniagbeto, G., Niagate, B. & Schmitz, A. 2021. Python regius. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T177562A15340592. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2021-2.RLTS.T177562A15340592.en. Accessed on 22 August 2022., Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/177562/15340592
  2. Python regius | Reptarium Reptile Database, Available here: https://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/species?genus=Python&species=regius
  3. Ball python genetic traits | Morphopedia, Available here: https://www.morphmarket.com/morphpedia/ball-pythons/
  4. Desert Ghost | Morphpedia, Available here: https://www.morphmarket.com/morphpedia/ball-pythons/desert-ghost/

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