A python is a type of snake common in Africa, Asia, and Australia. They are some of the longest snakes in the world. Though their size varies, some species can take down entire antelopes.
A python doesn’t kill by using venom. Instead, it wraps itself around the body of its prey and squeezes them to death.
This sounds like it takes quite a lot of force, but just how strong are pythons?
Pythons can constrict with a force of at least 7.8 PSI depending on their size. Compared to some other constrictors and even the human grip, this is not very strong. However, pythons are strong enough to kill their prey by stopping the circulation of blood to the brain.
Pythons Are A Whole Scientific Family
A python is not just a single snake species; it’s a family of snakes that, according to the San Diego Zoo, contains 33 different species.
It can be easy to confuse a python and a boa constrictor (another family of snake) because they look very similar. However, pythons are only found in Africa, Asia, and Australia, which makes them “Old World” snakes.
Boas are found both in those locations and in North, South, and Central America.
The longest species of python is the reticulated python. They average 4.78 meters, or over 15 feet, in length and weigh around 30-40 lbs., although they can grow much larger.
The largest reticulated python currently on record reached 348 lbs. and 25 feet long.
How Strong Are Pythons?
In a study from 2015, 48 reticulated pythons were tested for their peak constricting pressure (kPa). The researchers found that the pythons could exert pressure up to 53.77 kPa, or 7.8 pounds per square inch (PSI).
Their constricting strength may even be even higher in a non-lab setting. Despite this, the grip strength of an average person outstrips a python.
In comparison, the average 20-24 year-old human can apply between 60 and 101 pounds of force when squeezing.
Though reticulated pythons are one of the strongest types of pythons, they are not among the strongest constrictors. Compared to the average anaconda and king snake, pythons relatively weak.
This is partially due to their girth, as, despite their length, other types of snakes can be a lot heavier. An anaconda, for example, is much bulkier than a python.
An anaconda that’s 17 feet long is estimated to weigh as much as a 24-foot python. That puts the python over 41% larger in length while being of equal weight.
Pythons Bite, Then Squeeze
Little research has been done on the strength of a python’s bite. A case study in 2014, however, describes how a 13-foot reticulated python’s jaws had to be forced open with a screwdriver.
According to this case, python bites in humans are rare, with only 1-2 cases reported each year. They typically only bite in defense or as a way to subdue their prey if needed.
When defending, a python will strike and then immediately release, in an attempt to scare away a threat. If attacking for prey, the bite serves as a way to immobilize the prey for constriction.
Once the prey is caught in the python’s backward-facing teeth, the snake quickly loops itself multiple times around the body and begins to squeeze.
Pythons kill their prey by looping their long bodies around the prey and squeezing them to death. It was once thought that the prey died from suffocation, but more recent studies show that’s doubtful.
The more likely explanation has to do with blood pressure. The snakes squeeze their prey until the blood flow is cut off from the brain.
A 2015 study found that 91% of a group of rats killed by pythons showed signs of cardiac electrical dysfunction (death caused by the arrest of the circulatory system).
Humans may be stronger than pythons, but it can still be hard to get away if they decide to squeeze you around the middle.
If circumstances were just right and your arms were fully caught in a python’s coils, you could be dead with minutes.
A constrictor snake uses force to kill its prey. To do so, it has to be able to squeeze at least as much as it takes to cut the blood flow off from the brain.
Pythons are a family of constrictor snakes that includes over 30 different species. These snakes have a wide range of sizes, from 23 inches to over 30 feet long. This means that their strength range also varies.
The reticulated python is not only the longest type of python, but is also the longest snake in the world. It’s one of the strongest types of pythons, but it’s not as strong as other constrictors such as the anaconda.
Even the average grip strength of a human is greater than the constricting force of the strongest python. Pythons only have enough strength to kill animals up to the size of an antelope, although large specimens have been known to attack and swallow humans in rare situations.