The pygmy python, Antaresia perthensis


Python is a name that, to most people, is often synonymous with “giant snake.” If we take a closer look at pythons, we see that most species are medium in size, and some are even rather small. This article is about an incredible animal, the pygmy python, the smallest python in the world! With an adult size between 45 and 62 cm, you can hold a female on her eggs in the palm of one hand!


Today, the pygmy python is part of the genus Antaresia which includes the four species of Australian dwarf pythons:

  • Antaresia childreni, the Children’s python or northern brown python;
  • Antaresia maculosa, the spotted python;
  • Antaresia stimsoni, Stimson’s python;
  • Antaresia perthensis, the pygmy python.

The name of the species perthensis refers to Perth, a city in Western Australia.


His origins

Antaresia perthensis is endemic to Australia. It is found exclusively in the west of the country, more exactly in the region of Pilbara.

His habitat ?

The pygmy python inhabits rocky hills and plains planted with Spinifex bushes. It is common to find it in giant termite mounds or anthills. In these favorable habitats, it finds refuge for thermoregulation and excellent spawning sites.

A recent Latin name

Before the mid-1980s, Liasis childreni was the Latin name by which all Australian dwarf pythons were grouped. The common name of the pygmy python was then “western children’s python”. At that time, only the common name differentiated each type of miniature python. The successive work of Smith in 1985, Kluge in 1993 and Barker in 1994 made it possible to review the taxonomy with more precision. The genus Antaresia was created, comprising four species.

What it feeds on

Food is also present in abundance in the tunnels of termite mounds. It consumes several types of prey such as skinks (Ctenotus sp, Glaphyromorphus sp, Caria sp, Eremiascincus sp), geckos (Gehyra pilbara) and marsupial mice (Antechinus ssp). Considering its size, it seems obvious that the diet is predominantly made up of small lizards, especially in the early years of its life. After a study, Dr. Richard Shines determined that the pygmy python consumed 66% of reptiles and 33% of mammals.

The common English name forAntaresia perthensis is Anthill Python (literally anthill python), which clearly shows the connection of this species to its preferred habitat. When termite mounds or anthills are not available, it is common to find the pygmy python in rocky areas and Spinifex bushes.


As with many pythons, there are unfortunately few studies undertaken to understand the pygmy python’s way of life in the natural environment. Known to science for barely 60 years, we still know little about the pygmy python, whether in its biotope or in captivity.



It is a rather slender and rather slender animal. The head, well demarcated from the body, is rather short and triangular. It is therefore very different from that of other dwarf pythons which is generally more elongated. The rostrum is rounded. The scaling of the head consists of two to three preocular scales and four to 10 loreal scales, with an average of six.

According to Barker, it is easy to differentiate the pygmy python from other Australian dwarf pythons because it has a low average number of ventral scales (212-250) and subcaudal scales (34-45).

Despite its small size, the pygmy python has strong teeth with no less than 138 teeth.


The coloring of the pygmy python is an orange-brown variable tending to brick or terra cotta. Some specimens are darker and duller than others.

Reddish brown spots are present all over the body in an irregular fashion. They are more or less marked depending on the individual. In general, the spots fade with age.

The belly is white or light cream. Juveniles, on the other hand, have a very marked pattern of small irregular and dark spots. The color variations in Antaresia perthensis seem to be linked to the locality of origin of the animal (com. Pers Brian Fry).

The pygmy python is certainly small …

The pygmy python is the smallest python in the world. Its adult size is on average between 48 and 56 cm. The largest specimens recorded measured 70 cm. I was able to observe in captivity only about fifteen adult Antaresia perthensis and all of them measured less than 60 cm.


A seemingly endangered species

The pygmy python is apparently not endangered in its natural environment. According to Barker, the range is approximately 240,000 km2 (roughly the size of California), parts of which are uninhabited or even unexplored. We can therefore assume that part of the wild population is not threatened by the invasion of man on its habitat. In more populated areas, Australian herpetologists frequently encounter specimens along roadsides at night (along with many other snake species for that matter).


Like all Australian fauna, the pygmy python is highly protected locally and no export is allowed for commercial purposes. Only a few exports to zoos are possible. The specimens present in terrariums outside Australia are therefore necessarily from captive reproductions.

With regard to international legislation, the pygmy python is, like the majority of pythons, listed in appendix 2 of the Washington convention and in appendix B of the European regulation.


The pygmy python is still very rare in captivity outside Australia, quite a few specimens are bred in Europe and the United States.

As a result, there are relatively few maintenance and reproduction experiences: it is therefore important to share knowledge to contribute to the success of this exciting species in captivity. The information in this article is based on my personal experience and the collection of data from various outside sources (breeders, herpetologists, books and articles).


The adults are kept in translucent plastic breeding boxes measuring 40.5 x 27.5 x 14.5 cm. The battery that houses the boxes is heated by Habistat 28 W heating strips (dimensions 120 x 15 cm), controlled by a Habistat twin thermostat. They provide a hot spot at 30-32 ° C on a third of the box. The non-heating zone varies between 23 and 26 ° C. The humidity must be low, in my experience this species does not support too humid and confined conditions. In view of this parameter, ventilation grilles on each side of the boxes allow good ventilation. The water pot is small to limit the humidity. The substrate is made up of newspaper like most of the animals we breed. A resin hiding place allows snakes to find retreat.


The most delicate moment is to make accept the first meals to the newborns, subject which will be explained in more detail in the second part of this article. Once it agrees to feed on its own, the pygmy python becomes a devouring machine and rarely refuses a meal. Due to its size, mice can serve as the main food for the entire life of the animal. In the case of the pygmy python, we prefer to give mice rather than young rats. Indeed, at equivalent size, the mouse skeleton is already well developed and therefore constitutes a more substantial calcium supply.

On the other hand, freshly killed or thawed dead preys are easily accepted. It is therefore strongly recommended not to give live mice, especially when they are starting to have teeth. Your python could simply be killed to death by the mouse.

The preys are distributed with the help of pliers, not for safety reasons this time, but to not scare this little snake with our big hands!

The standard feeding frequency is once a week. After the breeding season, we can increase it to twice a week.

During the breeding season, food distributions are sporadic.

… But there is still a python!

The pygmy python is certainly small and rare, but it is not necessarily fragile. It is a robust snake that lives perfectly well in captivity. The conditions of maintenance are quite simple and its breeding is within the reach of all.

It is a docile and curious animal, not very stressed by handling – which must as always be limited to the strict minimum. Because despite its size, don’t be fooled! He remains a real python and behaves as such, he is an emeritus predator who has nothing to envy his giant cousin the olive python (Liasis o. olivaceus).