|MadSci Network: Zoology|
Dear Seth Sergent: Thanks for asking a good question. Most people cannot tell just by looking at a python whether it is male or female. In some species of pythons, for example, the Black Headed Python, whose scientific name is Aspidites melanocephalus, the female is larger than the male. Other species are more difficult to tell apart. There are two ways to find out for sure if a snake is male or female. The males have a pair of HEMIPENES hidden underneath scales on their bellies. With young snakes, an expert snake handler can gently put pressure on the right spot and pop the hemipenes out through the cloaca. Only the male snakes have hemipenes, the females do not. Another way is called PROBING. A steel probe, like a large dull needle, can be inserted in the cloaca and pushed under the tail of the snake. The distance the probe goes in tells you if the snake is male or female. The probe goes further in male snakes. BOTH OF THESE TESTS SHOULD ONLY BE ATTEMPTED BY AN EXPERT TO AVOID INJURING OR FRIGHTENING THE SNAKE. Snakes are very interesting animals, and if you would like to learn more, you can check out a whole website about pythons at www.pythons.com. Thanks again, Bill Dennis
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