Amethystine Pythons

Amethystine Pythons – Morelia kinghorni (Stull, 1933) are vividly-white along their ventral surfaces and are also equipped with highly-evolved heat-sensing pits along their jaw-lines, rich with infrared receptors.  Ambush is their most efficient predatory stratagem, but nocturnally-conspicuous warm-blooded mammals are, by necessity, super-sensitive to the underlying danger signal of white, so pythons conceal the full-length of their white under-bellies along branches or the top edges of elongated buttress-roots.  In the cavernous pitch of the nocturnal rainforest, a python, so positioned, is well-rewarded.  From its own perspective, visibility within the infrared field allows the python to strike at the concentrated heat-signature of the passing mammal, particularly as it is drawn alongside the guiding buttress and into the nutrient-rich walled repository.  For humans in possession of this knowledge, python predictability increases.

Through warm-blooded necessity, most birds sleep securely upon isolated roosts, so that their instinctive sensitivities to vibration protect them from predatory approaches of nocturnal snakes.  Whilst roost-selection mostly resolves the sleep dilemma of heat-sensing snakes, the protracted obligations of nesting compound vulnerabilities, so that small birds build nests in the leafy fork of an isolated understory plant, ensuring forewarning of snake attack through requisite vibration, with a cup-construction to optimise concealment of their heat-signatures at night.  The outer surfaces of the nests are camouflaged with well-selected forest adornments, including lichen-covered bark flakes, moss and confiscated green egg-sacs of Northern Jewelled Spiders.  Nest construction seasonally begins at the hottest end of the year, when the ambient temperature of the night is that much closer to the heat-signature of the birds and, very informatively for attentive human inhabitants, predictably three-weeks before the arrival of the heavy rains.

For the requirements of greater efficiency, pythons exploit the abundant resources of their upper-story habitat, with the majority of their nutritional needs high-lighted nocturnally by the distinctive heat-signatures of warm-blooded organisms and all of their water requirements are well met through the consumption of such prey.  Giant epiphytes, growing within the upper reaches of the rainforest canopy, maximise access to the energy of the sun and also capture falling leaves from above, establishing horizontal platforms that form excellent python habitat.  In such settings, pythons exploit the greater quantity of sunlight to assist with digestion and other thermoregulatory requirements.  Descending to the forest-floor expends considerable energy, as does the return climb to the top and the heavier the python, the greater the scale of inefficiency.  Huge pythons rarely descend to the forest-floor. 

The original human inhabitants undoubtedly utilised the descendent root-structures of stranglers as natural ladders, to source the biggest of the pythons.  Harvesting python, for all their considerable nutritional value, whilst particularly reducing the number of bigger pythons, would also have relieved pressure on the populations of arboreal mammals, with significant flow-on benefits for rainforest integrity.  Skilful human acquisition and consumption of the bigger pythons would not only make the local environment safer for other humans, it would also support the population interests of tree-kangaroos and other arboreal mammals and birds.