The animal on the cover of Python in a Nutshell, Second Edition, is an African
rock python, one of approximately 18 species of python. Pythons are nonven-
omous constrictor snakes that live in tropical regions of Africa, Asia, Australia,
and some Pacific Islands. Pythons live mainly on the ground, but they are also
excellent swimmers and climbers. Both male and female pythons retain vestiges of
their ancestral hind legs. The male python uses these vestiges, or spurs, when
courting a female.
The python kills its prey by suffocation. While the snake’s sharp teeth grip and
hold the prey in place, the python’s long body coils around its victim’s chest,
constricting tighter each time it breathes out. They feed primarily on mammals
and birds. Python attacks on humans are extremely rare.