You might wonder if those small orbs on a ball python’s face can see in the dark. Ball Pythons are large creatures, but their eyes are small and don’t work very well. Like most snakes, a Ball Python’s senses are different from our own.
Can Ball Pythons see in the dark? Ball Pythons are nocturnal and can see extremely well in the darkness despite having such poor eyesight. They love the night and prefer to dwell in darker places even during the day-time. They possess what is called infrared heat-sensing vision. They are able to sense heat as finite as 3/1000th of a degree. This makes them excellent night-time dwellers and predators.
There are lots of functions that help these snakes see at night. Ball Pythons use heat receptors along the top of their mouth to see in the dark. They have eyes to sense light, and heat receptors to sense heat. The receptors are called ‘pit organs’. They contain a membrane that can detect infrared radiation from bodies of their prey/predators. These creatures are anything but useless in the dark.
Ball Pythons’ Heat Sensing
It’s interesting that Ball Pythons don’t actually use their eyes to “see.” It is more useful for them to use their heat-sensing to see. It’s very similar to how an infrared camera works. It is a fascinating characteristic of the Ball Python. (Other snakes have this same tool they can use to ‘see’ and catch their prey.)
Because the Ball Python uses infrared senses to see during the day and at night, he is a perfect candidate for helping scientists discover how to better create infrared tools and other useful advancements in technology.
A Ball Pythons infrared sensing is completely organized and allows him to be precise in its ‘heat inspired’ judgments almost every time.
Ball Pythons can also be trained with infrared sensing. There are places where Ball Pythons are overrunning and taking over. If scientists can learn how to guide them and direct their movements, there is potential for management.
Ball Pythons’ thermal sensing provides for an excellent tool to manage them in places they are overrunning, and they won’t even know they are being managed. We recently wrote an article specifically about snakes’ ability to see, where we talk about the different ways they see and hear things. Find the article here.
How Does The Infrared Sensing Work?
Along the top edges of their faces/mouths, there is a row of holes that have been named “pit organs.” These organs can sense/feel the heat radiation that emanates from the warm bodies of mammals.
What is inside a pit organ? A pit organ contains a membrane, nerves, and several air chambers that allow the Ball Python to use its heat-sensing abilities. That air temperature changes in the chambers are detected rapidly and create a ‘thermal image’ for the Ball Python to observe.
Because of this, he knows what he’s up against and can make decisions and assess what he’s dealing with. This allows the Ball Python to hunt its prey more efficiently and effectively.
His heat sensing ability allows him to sense creatures as far away as 3 meters. Considering their size, that’s pretty impressive to think about.
There are two chambers in the “pit organ.” One has the regular temperature of the snake. The other can sense the heat changes of possible creatures surrounding the Ball Python.
Do Ball Pythons Sleep?
Being nocturnal animals, you may wonder if Ball Pythons sleep- they do. Ball Pythons don’t have any eyelids to close, but they do sleep. In fact, Ball Pythons are super lazy and sleep quite a lot.
They like to reserve energy by resting and sleeping for long periods of time. They also like to sleep in dark places that sort of cacoon them so they are more comfortable.
Because it is so exhausting to digest, Ball Pythons can sleep 22-23 hours a day. I’ve only ever slept that long when I’m sick. (Don’t worry your snake is not sick.) Not to mention when it sheds its skin, it can sleep for weeks. What a vacation! It may be a nocturnal animal, but it does a lot of sleeping.
Ball Pythons do not sleep all the time. They get up and do a little ‘walk’ around, and you don’t have to worry about them being asleep all the time. The fact that they sleep so much is probably one of the reasons they are considered to be so docile. You could say that they have a very calm and ‘sleepy’ disposition.
This isn’t to say that you should get a Ball Python because he’ll sleep all the time. It is very likely that you could get one with a different personality that doesn’t sleep so much, who knows.
They Have Legs?!
You’re probably not wondering whether Ball Pythons have legs because most people believe that they don’t. I mean, no snakes have legs, that’s ridiculous. Here’s an interesting fact though: Ball Pythons actually do.
I’m so used to thinking of snakes as slithering, slick creatures, that I didn’t believe it when I heard it. I mean, snakes can be slick and slippery, but no species is exactly alike. That’s what makes our Ball Python so special. Ball Pythons have little ‘hooks’ near their hip area.
These little hooks are located nearer the tail and look like upside-down horns. Their ‘legs’ are called spurs and they are relatively useless.
Why do they even have ‘legs’/spurs? Is it like the appendix? Could you just remove it easily and the snake could go on living, never knowing that it’s lost its legs?
For humans, losing our legs would be one of the worst parts of our body to lose. Think about what you couldn’t do. Ball Pythons, however, seem to be doing just fine without legs. They don’t even notice they don’t have them.
Some scientists believe that it is a remnant of what they once were. We know that animals evolve and change over time, and Pythons even have the genetic residue/capability to grow limbs. These ‘spurs’ are very tiny and hardly visible, but they are there, along with hip joints.
They may not have limbs, but they could one day sprout limbs and ‘walk’ away and not slither. These spurs are not used to walk, but they have the potential to become limbs later on in the snakes’ evolution.
Can snakes actually see through their eyes? Yes, snakes can see through their eyes, but it is very poor. However, they make up for the lack of eyesight in their other senses.
Can a Ball Python still see when it sheds? Ball Pythons cannot see very well when they shed because there is a film that covers their eyes and sheds with their skin.
If Pythons use heat-sensing, then what are their eyes for? Ball Pythons only use their heat-sensing vision when there is not enough light for them to see. If there is a lot of light, they see just like any of us would see.