Breeding Stimson’s Pythons: adventures in maternal incubation

I didn’t plan on building a collection of Australian Pythons, it just sort of happened. I could probably blame the book KEEPING & BREEDING AUSTRALIAN PYTHONS for the growing number of Aussie species filling the spare bedroom. I bought the book because it was, at the time, the best source of information regarding M. carinata. But there’s this chapter on Diamond Pythons you see, and I had a couple empty cages you know… and well you know the rest.
_IGP1967_forPASSJanuary 18, 2016 by hollywoodtb, on Flickr

That book, along with a few podcasts of guests waxing poetic on the attributes of Antaresia and an extended chat with David Haisten gave me the bug, and last fall I aquired 1.2 of the little buggers. David was very kind in sharing his knowledge and experience with the species to ensure my success and it looks like it paid off!

I rotated the male through the females about every two weeks starting in November and observed copulations right away and throughout the cool season.
Stimstons Pythons Mating by hollywoodtb, on Flickr

The younger female started basking inverted in February and continued basking this way until she laid. She will right herself if I disturb her, but otherwise stays in this position.
Inverted Basking Stimsoni by hollywoodtb, on Flickr

invertedstim by hollywoodtb, on Flickr

The older female doesn’t lay inverted much, but you can see by the pictures she was very full of eggs!
gravidstim by hollywoodtb, on Flickr

They both shed within days of each other in March and anticipated lay dates by highlighting them on the calendar. My main reason for getting these pythons was to try maternal incubation, so I will let one female incubate her own while artificially incubating the other.

On 3/29/16: Sheila laid 15 eggs. It was raining outside, I wonder if that has anything to do with it. (16 days after POS)


_IGP2324 by hollywoodtb, on Flickr

It was a big clutch for her (although smaller than her previous clutches of 17 and 16 eggs.) I had planned on letting her maternally incubate them and up to this point that was still the plan, however she didn’t have a great beehive going and I was freaking out the environment was too dry. The incubator hadn’t arrived yet anyway, so I left her with them at first.


_IGP2338 by hollywoodtb, on Flickr

4/01/16: Elora Dannan laid 12 eggs. (Also raining today.) (19 days after POS)


eloraoneggs by hollywoodtb, on Flickr

I love this picture because it really shows how small these pythons are. Without any sort of reference it’s easy to forget. I think this photo drives that realization home.
Still, the incubator had not arrived, Elora had a much better beehive shape to her eggs and was more efficient at covering them up.

4/08/16: I pulled Sheila’s eggs. The incubator arrived and I got it all set up. I put about an inch of perlite in a 6 qt plastic shoebox with some egg-crate/light diffuser on top of it. Then I added water until the perlite began to float off the bottom. The probe is inside the shoebox on top of the eggs and set to 87. The eggs on top of the pile have dimpled a bit. I am leaving Elora Dannan to incubate her eggs maternally.

4/11/16: I was really concerned about the environment not being humid enough so I removed some moss and put a bowl of water inside the nest box. The nest box is over the heat so I imagine that should do the trick.

4/25/16: POTENTIAL DISASTER! I replaced the old bargain store digital thermometer with one from Reptile Basics that also registers humidity. The temp read 96! I turned down the heat cable and added another probe to the nest box from the Herpstat just to compare it with the thermometer. It’s now reading 86 with fluctuations to 91 during the heat of the day.

5/14/16: BABIES!! Elora’s clutch was out this morning. Eleven of twelve hatched. One near the bottom looked full-term but a bit goofy and never slit the shell. Most of the babies were out, most under the water bowl, only one had made it out of the nest box. I didn’t get to see them emerging from her coils like I’d been anticipating as she was off the eggs when I discovered them. Elora was in her water bowl getting a drink, I fed her a rat and she went crazy for it. Today is 43 days.


maternalstims by hollywoodtb, on Flickr

5/15/16: MORE BABIES!! Sheila’s clutch started pipping tonight with two noses out. Perfect hatchies! 15/15. Today is 47 days.


IMG_2864 by hollywoodtb, on Flickr

The babies are perfect, some are laid back and inquisitive, others think they are tough as nails and love to strike. There is a fair amount of diversity in the patterns that I am really excited to monitor the progress of. They have all had their first sheds and I will begin the feeding trials next week.


IMG_2870 by hollywoodtb, on Flickr


IMG_2922 by hollywoodtb, on Flickr


IMG_2927 by hollywoodtb, on Flickr

hatchling rackI set up the neonates in Reptile Basics Hatchling Rack. It was difficult to find water bowls small enough to fit the tubs, but they can be found at almost any dollar store. I outfitted them with a paper towel substrate, water bowl and crumpled newspaper as a hide and for something to climb on. (These crumpled paper hides are becoming my favorite snake hide for all sorts of things! Cheap, easy to make and snakes will find interesting nooks and crannies to hide in that can’t be created with any other hide.) The rear of this rack is lined with heat tape and I set the thermostat for 90 F. The small size of the tubs really helps give the snakes a feeling of security and I am going to be using this size for hatchling Rhino Ratsnakes this year as well.

 

 

IMG_3228

After their first shed, I offered them each a small ft pinkie mouse. Most of the neonates would strike at the pinky being offered with long tweezers. After a couple warning strikes, they usually ended up holding on and constricting the pinky with their entire body. At that point, I left them alone and went on to the next one. For those that didn’t strike, I left the pinkie overnight. The next morning I was happy to discover, most of them (18 of 26) had eaten! For those that didn’t, I have tried brained pinkies (not successful), pinkies with bits of skink tail stuffed in their mouths (1/4 successful), pinkies wrapped in lizard skin (not successful), fish scented pinkies (not successful) and pinkies scented with frog legs (2/4 successful!) I definitely waited too long to begin assist-feeding some of them, hoping they would come around and a few have expired. I have since began assist-feeding mouse tails and mice legs to the stubborn ones. Those that have been eating from the beginning quickly started taking two pinky mice at each feeding.  They have really filled out and are growing quickly.
What I’ve learned:
1. Python eggs hatch quick! -Compared to colubrid eggs anyway, which I regularly wait between 70-100 days to hatch. These is my first successful python breeding experience and I’m super stoked about it. According to the literature, stimsoni eggs hatch around 50 days. I blame the early hatching on the higher temperature during the first half of incubation.
2. Maternal Incubation is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen! -At Southern Carpetfest I must have asked Eric a dozen times what I needed to do to maternally incubate eggs. To which his reply was basically, “Nothing.” I couldn’t believe it to be that simple, I figured the humidity (which never registered above 68%) had to be higher, the temps (which ranged between 83-97) had to be more stable. Surely they were all going to dry out and rot away… None of this made much difference in the end and despite my best efforts to complicate it, it was super fun to sit back and watch it happen.
3. GET A GOOD THERMOMETER! -My old bargain brand indoor/outdoor thermometers are gone now. They could have ruined the whole thing.
4. Do not wait until it’s too late to begin assist-feeding. I noticed they crashed a lot faster than a Rhino Ratsnake would have. After four refusals, start doing it the hard way.
5. The obvious… Antaresia are tiny. And this was a whole-lotta-fun!

Terry

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