The green tree python (Morelia viridis) is a beautiful arboreal snake found in Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea. You may be wondering how these tropical snakes hunt and if they are venomous.
Are Green Tree Pythons Venomous?
Green tree pythons are not venomous, they are constrictors. These snakes use their 100 teeth to catch prey in the trees and hold onto it while they use constriction to kill it.
Venom in snakes is used to help subdue prey and also as a defense. Many species have been shown to control whether they use their venom when they bite.
This is partly because the venom is costly to produce. It takes time for the snake to make more. If it wastes it on prey it can’t eat or for defense, it may miss out on a meal. Venom likely developed very early in squamates, the group that includes snakes and lizards.
Approximately 2,500 species of snakes out of the approximately 3,000 known snake species have venom. This is highly specialized to target the preferred prey of the species.
Some venomous snakes have changed diets over time and gone from live prey that requires venom to eggs or invertebrate prey like slugs that can’t fight back.
These species have less venom and many use constriction to subdue prey that can’t be eaten while still alive.
The exact type and potency of venom depend on what the snake eats. Snakes that target other reptiles or prey that can’t fight back tend to have less potent venom.
Species that target mammals like rodents typically have stronger venom that may be more dangerous to humans.
Some of these species also have faster strikes and strike multiple times to help overwhelm dangerous prey.
They also typically have longer fangs to help drive venom deeper and weaken prey further. Front-fanged snakes are the most well-known of the venomous snakes, but they are not the majority of species even if they are the most well-studied.
See my article for more clues to tell venomous and non venomous snakes apart.
This study goes over the evolution of venom and changes in venom glands in a wide variety of venomous snakes.
Green Tree Pythons
Green tree pythons are not venomous animals. While they can bite, they do not use venom to subdue prey. Instead, this species relies on constriction and very sharp teeth. Green tree pythons will wait for prey while sitting on a tree branch.
They use their long, thin tails as a lure by wiggling it in front of their head like a worm. When a potential prey item comes to try to catch the “worm”, they strike and catch the prey.
Green tree pythons have 100 long, sharp teeth that help hold prey once it is bitten. The prey is then brought close and wrapped in coils of the body to constrict it.
Constriction kills rapidly by interrupting blood flow. Most constrictor snakes will only constrict until the heartbeat ceases, then release to consume the prey.
They target arboreal prey as adults such as birds. Younger snakes will typically eat lizards and other reptile prey.
Green tree pythons typically pick one spot to ambush prey from when they are hunting. Juveniles will typically hunt at lower elevations and may hunt during the day more often. Adults hunt larger prey at night.
They also hunt higher in the trees. Many species of snakes feature this change in diet as they age. The most common prey for Australian green tree pythons are rodents, but they have been noted to take adult birds, reptiles, and even moths.
Snakes from other locations will typically hunt different species, but the overall diet is similar. These ambush predators will rarely move during their hunting time. Most animals in captivity only move to thermoregulate or drink water.
Otherwise, they pick a perch and rest. Even in the wild, these snakes pick a spot for their nocturnal hunting and stay put.
They will wait in a likely spot for prey and strike anything they can eat that enters their range. This is much more than you would think since these snakes can reach out with nearly half their length so long as they have a secure perch.
Since these snakes are not venomous, they are not dangerous to own. Bites do hurt since they have long and sharp teeth, but they are not a threat to humans. Green tree pythons rarely get longer than 6 feet and most will not weigh more than 3 pounds.
Any wounds from green tree pythons should be cleaned and watched for infection since they can be deep. However, there is not a real threat unless the snake goes for your face. Be cautious with this species and learn how to recognize snake body language.
This species is not for beginners due to care requirements and behavior. Captive-bred and born animals are typically more docile but farmed or illegally caught snakes can be defensive and bite very quickly. Because green tree pythons are not venomous, they do not fall under laws concerning the ownership of venomous snakes.
They will be under local laws about exotic, non-native species for the United States and all countries outside of their native range. Be sure you do your research. This species is frequently brought in illegally, so only buy from a breeder located in your area.
Green tree pythons are arboreal ambush predators that use constriction to kill prey. They are not venomous and do not pose a major threat to humans.
While they can cause injuries with their teeth, you should be fine if bitten by a pet. Just watch for signs of infection, particularly in deeper wounds.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.