This accolade of the longest snake in the world is awarded to the reticulated python, which can be found in the rainforests, grasslands, woodlands and occasionally even the sewers of south and southeast Asia. It is also amongst the three heaviest snake species.

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The longest ever reticulated python recorded was found in 1912 and measured 10 metres, and the longest in captivity was a female in the USA that measured 7.67 metres.

As a python snake, the reticulated python is an ambush predator. This means that it waits until its prey is close enough to strike. The species is not venomous, but it is type of constrictor which means it seizes its prey within its coils and gradually constricts the prey until it dies, after which it consumes it.

It normally feeds on mammals and birds, with smaller snakes feeding on smaller prey items such as rodents and bats, and larger snakes feeding on civets, primates, pigs and deer.

It is known to catch chickens, cats and dogs when it is near human habitation.

Can a reticulated python kill and eat a person?

Unfortunately, there have been instances of it catching humans. In late October 2022, the body of a 54-year-old woman named Jahrah was found within the body of 7-metre long snake. When Jahrah failed to return from her work at an Indonesian rubber plantation, a search party found some of her items on the forest floor and then a large bloated snake.

The snake was killed and sliced open, and Jahrah’s body was found inside, still intact. It’s suspected that the snake was a reticulated python as it’s the only species in the area that is large enough to catch and eat an adult human.

“They are constrictors, so what they do is coil their body around you. They will give you a hug of death. You breathe in and your body gets smaller, it tightens its grip, and you can’t breathe out,” snake conservationist Nathan Rusli, director of the Indonesia Herptofauna Foundation, told The Washington Post. “The top and bottom jaw of a snake is connected by ligaments, it’s quite flexible. They can swallow prey larger than the size of their head.”

Because of its impressive size and beautiful patterning, the species is often kept in zoos to impress visitors.

Although it is known for being the longest snake in the world, dwarf forms can also occur on islands northwest of Australia – and these have been bred in captivity to be even smaller, to create “super dwarfs” which typically measure between 1.82 to 2.4 metres in length.

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Main image: A reticulated python in Singapore's Central Catchment Nature Reserve. © Justin Ong/Getty

Authors

Megan ShersbyEditorial and digital co-ordinator, BBC Wildlife

Naturalist and writer

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