Pygmy python

A. perthensis

Last updated: June 12, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

These snakes have been seen traveling as group of 3-5.

Pygmy python Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Squamata
Family
Pythonidae
Genus
Antaresia
Scientific Name
A. perthensis

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Pygmy python Conservation Status

Pygmy python Locations

Pygmy python Locations

Pygmy python Facts

Prey
geckos, lizards, small mammals
Name Of Young
hatchling, neonate
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
  • Solitary except during mating season
Fun Fact
These snakes have been seen traveling as group of 3-5.
Biggest Threat
Vehicles

Pygmy python Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Red
  • Dark Brown
  • Cream
  • Light-Brown
Skin Type
Scales
Lifespan
25+ years
Length
20 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
3 years
Venomous
No
Aggression
Low

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Also known as the anthill python, the pygmy python is the smallest python in the world.

This snake makes its home in the Pilbara region of northwest Australia. It’s one of four species in the Antaresia genus, also known as Children’s pythons.

Amazing Facts About the Pygmy Python

  • They often den together in termite mounds with other species including king brown snakes and Stimson’s pythons.
  • The Pygmy python is only about 6 inches long when it hatches and maxes out at 20 inches as an adult.
  • They’re solitary except during breeding season when males follow the females’ pheromone trails.

Where to Find a Pygmy Python

Pygmy pythons live in the Pilbara region of Western Australia – the hottest and dryest part of the continent. They are nocturnal and spend their days sheltering under Spinifex grasses, inside termite mounds, or under crevices in rock outcrops. In fact, they spend the majority of the daylight hours hidden in a shelter to keep out of the blazing sun.

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These snakes often share large termite mounds with several other species that include Stimson’s/Children’s python, black-headed pythons, Pilbara geckoes, and others.

Termite mounds offer protection from extreme daytime heat and a consistent temperature during the daylight hours. The temperature inside can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a nearly perfect temperature for many of the cold-blooded species that use the mounds.

Diet & Reproduction

Scientists don’t know much about these snakes’ behavior in the wild. They’re tiny and difficult to observe. However, they have been seen eating small geckos; presumably, as they grow, they take progressively larger prey. They are good climbers that can be found in the branches of shrubs and small trees but seem to spend a lot of time underground.



Pygmy pythons are similar to other small snakes in that multiple males and females move about together. Scientists believe that this “pairing behavior” occurs because the females are leaving a pheromone trail that the males follow.

After mating, females lay 2-6 eggs and curl around them to help incubate the eggs until hatching. The eggs hatch after about 2 months in captivity, so it’s probably similar in the wild. The hatchlings are independent after hatching and the mother doesn’t appear to offer any further help or protection.

Pygmy Python Scientific Name

The Antaresia genus is named after Antares, a red giant star in the constellation Scorpio. Their specific name, perthensis, refers to Perth, but Stull made this mistake made in 1932 when he first described it. He thought that the type specimen had come from Perth. However, the species doesn’t occur there at all.

Pygmy Python Population and Conservation

This species is widespread, even though it has a relatively small range compared to other Australian python species. According to the IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species, they’re an animal of “least concern” and have a stable population. Australia stopped allowing the export of their native species in 1999. However, before their government banned export, enough were already in the collections of breeders in other countries that they became readily available to snake enthusiasts.

Pygmy pythons are listed under Appendix II of CITES and occur in several protected areas within their range. The biggest threats they have are encounters with people and vehicles, and the snakes are the unfortunate victims in these situations.

Identifying the Pygmy Python: Appearance and Description

Pygmy pythons only grow to about 20 inches long, making them the smallest python in the world. They tend to have a reddish head and redder base color than their sister species, the Children’s python and spotted pythons. As juveniles, these snakes have irregularly shaped spots that tend to fade as the snakes mature.

These snakes have large symmetrical scales on their distinctly python-shaped heads. Their eyes are usually similar to their body in color and have elliptical pupils. Like most pythons, pygmy pythons have heat-sensing labial pits that help them find prey in the dark. Their scales are smooth and glossy, with an iridescent sheen in the sunlight.

Pygmy python on rock
This species often takes shelter in large termite mounds with other snake species.

iStock.com/Ken Griffiths

Pictures and Videos of Pygmy Pythons

Anthill python
Also called anthill pythons, these snakes sometimes travel in small groups.

iStock.com/Ken Griffiths

Pygmy Python
This species is the smallest python in the world.

reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

Are Pygmy Pythons Dangerous?

Given their tiny size and the fact that pygmy pythons are not venomous – there’s no danger from them. This species is not likely to bite and their mild-mannered disposition makes them very pleasant to handle. Even though these pythons are small, they do help limit the population of animals that can become pests.

Pygmy Python Behavior and Humans

While rare in the pet trade outside of Australia, pygmy pythons are terrific first snakes. Their living requirements are pretty easy to replicate and they’re somewhat tolerant of not-quite-perfect conditions.

These snakes are difficult to get started after they hatch, however, because in nature they feed on cold-blooded prey. The hatchlings often don’t want to eat mice and breeders have to teach them. As a result, this is often a more expensive breed, because a responsible breeder takes several months with the hatchlings to be sure they’re eating well.

Similar Animals

Check out a few other pythons to learn more about these amazing creatures.

View all 117 animals that start with P

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.

Pygmy python FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Pygmy Pythons venomous?

No, these snakes are nonvenomous constrictors, that kill their prey by squeezing the life out of it.

How do Pygmy Pythons hunt?

They’re ambush predators that also actively forage in cracks and crevices at night when the heat of the day subsides.

Are Pygmy Pythons aggressive?

No, they’re probably one of the most easy-going snakes, even in the wild.

Where do Pygmy Pythons live?

Only in the Pilbara and Gascoyne regions of Western Australia. They have a really small range that overlaps with that of the Children’s python.

What do Pygmy Pythons eat?

Some individuals have been observed feeding on geckos (Gehyra pilbaria) in the tunnels of large termite mounds. Much of their diet is based on assumptions in comparison to other snakes of their genus and is thought to include small skinks and mammals.

Sources
  1. Pygmy Python | IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/13300669/13300677
  2. Damien Esquerré, Stephen C. Donnellan, Carlos J. Pavón-Vázquez, Jéssica Fenker, J. Scott Keogh, Phylogeography, historical demography and systematics of the world’s smallest pythons (Pythonidae, Antaresia), Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Volume 161, 2021, 107181, ISSN 1055-7903, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2021.107181., Available here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1055790321001147?via%3Dihub
  3. Pygmy Python | Reptile Database, Available here: https://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/species?genus=Antaresia&species=perthensis
  4. CITES Listing, Available here: https://speciesplus.net/#/taxon_concepts/7712/legal
  5. Perth Zoo, Available here: https://perthzoo.wa.gov.au/animal/pygmy-python

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