By Darren Boswell and Bradley Oliver
The two pythons which make up the Genus Aspidites, the Blackheaded Python, Aspidites melanocephalus and the Woma, Aspidites ramsayi (SA form). Both of these snakes are yearlings, captive bred in 1998.
Left Aspidites melanocephalus, Northern Territory form - Right Aspidites ramsayi, Moomba, South Australian population.
We are not dealers but private keepers who are currently maintaining and breeding these species. Exporting of wildlife from Australia is prohibited by law. For inquiries about available captive bred animals within Australia, please contact us. All photography unless otherwise stated is by Darren Boswell. Click on photo titles to view photos
Genus Aspidites (as'-pid'-eye'-teez : "shield bearer") This endemic and unique Australian genus comprises only two species. Both grow to a large size (2.5m) and are characterised by a moderately robust body and a smallish, round snouted head which, unlike other Australian pythons, is indistinct from the neck. The headshields are large and regular and the tail is relatively short and not prehensile. Both species are largely terrestrial (ground-dwelling) and often inhabit the burrows of other animals. Among pythons, they are unusual in that they lack heat-sensitive pit on the labial scales. The eyes are brownish to black and the pupil is almost invisible.General disposition in captive specimens is very docile and amenable to handling.
Black Headed Pythons Aspidites melanocephalus ("black headed shield bearer")
Blackheaded Python, sub-adult male close up
Blackheaded Python, sub adult male
The Blackheaded Python is found throughout humid and sub-humid areas of Northern Australia from Rockhampton,on the East Coast of Queensland across to the Northern parts of Western Australia. This snakes diet in the wild consists of reptiles (including venomous snakes) and small mammals. In captivity, we feed these animals on rats. Juveniles are large enough at approx. 500mm long, to begin on baby rats. Sometimes the first few rats offered may need to be scented with lizard scent to initiate a feeding response.We keep our blackheads in cages 1600mm long x 600mm wide x 600mm deep. They are constructed from 16mm veneered MDF and have sliding glass fronts. A large vent at each end of the cage provides adequate ventilation. Cage heating is provided by Thermofilm under the floor at one end of the cage and the temperature is kept between 30 -35.C by a thermostat. Having the heat at one end gives the pythons a temperature gradient of 30-35.C at the hot end of the cage, to 22.C at the cool end. A large water bowl is situated at the cool end of the cage and artificial foliage is provided to give the snakes a partially hidden area to hide. We find that these snakes have a regular activity pattern in captivity. Unlike most pythons, which only begin to become active after dark, our blackheads begin moving around the cage about one hour before sunset, often drinking at this time.Blackheaded pythons are voracious feeders and swallow their prey much faster then any python species we have kept. They are also fast growers, with last years hatchlings (the ones in these photos), already almost 1.6m total length.
Blackheaded Python, sub adult female
Blackheaded Python, male, headshot
Here below are some pictures of the vivaria we house the pythons in. There are digital thermometers permanently fixed in each cage to allow monitoring of temperature. The bottom of the cage has a sheet of cement fibre sheet sealed with lacquer and siliconed in to allow for easy cleaning and provide some water resistance. The substrate is a 3cm layer of gum leaves which are baked in an oven after collection to eliminate pests. There is a fluorescent light fitting with a Biolux full-spectrum tube which is on a timer to go on and off with the natural day / night cycle.
Woma Pythons - Aspidites ramsayi ("Ramsay's shield bearer")
SA Woma adult male - Moomba, S.A.
SA Woma adult male headshot - Moomba, S.A.
The Woma Python is found in drier parts of the mainland of Australia, inhabiting desert areas of every mainland state except Victoria. The woma tends to attain a larger girth than the blackheaded python and the head is slightly more distinct than the head. There are numerous populations of this species, each having their own distinguishing features. The 3 most commonly accepted forms are the Northern Territory or Tanami Desert form, the South Australian form (which grows to nearly 3m) and the endangered South Western WA form. The most obvious difference between these and melanocephalus is the lack of a black head and neck. There has been speculation that these snakes often subdue their prey by pressing it against the wall of a burrow when space will not allow it to constrict in the normal manner. Certainly most of the wild caught adults we have seen have extensive scarring possibly form prey retaliation. We have not witnessed this behaviour in captivity, even when feeding live prey. These snakes are docile, hardy captives and seem to be more sedentary in habit than their blackheaded cousins. While not as contrasting as the blackheaded python, some womas can be extremely beautiful snakes and quite a few of the snakes in Bradley Oliver's collection have bright orange - yellow heads, even as adults.
The woma pythons are also housed in MDF cages, with incandescent lamps for day-time heat and thermofilm heatpads for night-time heat placed under the hide-box. Water bowls are placed in the cage once a week. They feed readily on defrosted breeder rats / chickens, and also grow at a rapid rate.
SA Woma sub-adult male
SA Woma sub adult male headshot
SA Woma subadult female close up
SA Woma subadult female
Northern Territory Woma ( Tanami Desert form)
The above photos of Aspidites ramsayi and A.melanocephalus are used with the permission of Don Hamper Reptiles, USA and are indicative of the colour variation to be found in both species.
In 1997 the SA Womas bred, producing 28 healthy and fertile eggs, of which 26 hatched successfully. the reproductive data is as follows: Courtship was observed between July 11, 1997 and September 5, 1997. Ovulation occurred on October 18, 1997. Oviposition occurred on Decmber 4, 1997 and the hatchlings appeared from their eggs between February 2 -9 1998. Incubation temperature ranged between 31.5 - 32.5 degrees celsius. The pictures below are of the female laying and the eggs in the incubation medium of vermiculite and water.
SA Woma female laying eggs
Eggs in the incubator
If you are a keeper/breeder of either of these species, send us an email and tell us about your animals or share your experiences with them. We have a network of Aspidites keepers.
Links to other related sites.....
Raymond Hoser's Australian pythons pt 1 genera Aspidites & Chondropython.
Australian Aspidites Web page, Adelaide, South Australia. Darren Boswell & Bradley Oliver 1999.