Photo of the Month: Green Tree Python

By Megan Runquist Holmstedt

Green Tree Python by Jamie Pham

Green tree python; PHOTO CREDIT: Jamie Pham

Status: Despite some threats to local populations due to collection for the pet trade, this snake is listed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to its large range.

Habitat: The green tree python can be found in the warm rainforests on the northern tip of Australia (Cape York), Papua New Guinea, and several surrounding islands. It spends most of its adult life in the trees.

Diet: This constrictor eats primarily small mammals and occasionally invertebrates, birds, and other reptiles.

A green tree python can grow to be about six feet long. Adults are bright green with a ridge of white or yellow scales down their backs and yellow ventral (belly) scales. Young green tree pythons are often bright yellow or reddish-orange with white blotches with dark brown or black outlines.

The different color stages of this python seem to provide camouflage for its surroundings at each life stage–a young python’s warm colors help it blend better with the leaf litter at the forest edges where small prey is more easily found. An adult’s green coloring helps it blend in with the darker, closed-canopy parts of the forest that host larger prey.

The process of changing color for a young green tree python can take several weeks to several months. Red juveniles take longer to turn green because they must first change to yellow. The color change generally occurs in several patches of skin at a time.

The green tree python’s striking similarities to the emerald tree boa of the Amazon rainforest make the two species a prime example of convergent evolution. Although these snakes look virtually the same and share similar habitats, they belong to separate scientific families with big differences. For example, pythons lay eggs (oviparous) while most boas give birth to live young (viviparous).

Green tree pythons can be seen in the LAIR.