Although the rough-scaled python Morelia carinata of north western Australia is one of the most morphologically distinctive python species worldwide, it remains virtually unstudied. Our fieldtrips have increased the number of animals seen in the wild from 2 to 12, and the 5 animals brought into captivity produced 7 clutches totalling 71 viable offspring over a period of 6 years. In this paper we provide quantitative information on reproduction and growth of these captive animals, as well as qualitative information about behaviour and dietary habits. Reflecting their close phylogenetic relationship with green tree pythons Morelia viridis from northeastern Australia, captive rough-scaled pythons are sedentary animals that spend most of their time tightly coiled in arboreal or saxicolous ambush sites. Females produce relatively small clutches of 10 to 14 eggs, which hatch as large, slenderbodied offspring averaging 406 mm snout-vent length (SVL) and 16.9 g in weight. Growth is rapid, with captive males attaining sexual maturity at around 1000 mm SVL and approximately 18 months of age; females mature at 1400 mm and 30 months. Many hatchlings were reluctant to accept mammalian prey unless anuran or avian scent had been added beforehand, suggesting that frogs may be an important dietary component of juvenile snakes in the wild. In turn, frog-eating may render these snakes vulnerable to the imminent invasion of cane toads Rhinella marina into the northwestern Kimberley. Continued maintenance of captive stocks can provide for potential future reintroduction to the wild if toads (or some other threatening process) imperil existing wild populations of rough-scaled pythons.
- captive breeding