The genus python comprises seven species of non-venomous pythons, including one of the largest snakes in the world, the python reticulatus, below.
Pythons occur naturally in Africa and Asia and have spread recently as invasive species as varies species have escaped ownership or have been released in the wild by their owners. While non-venomous, their large size (some species can reach 20 feet), pythons are not defenseless-armed with rows of jagged inward pointing teeth and crushing or suffocating their prey, pythons are lethal predators.
The word Python as an English word dates to around 1580, referring to the mythological serpent slain by Apollo at Delphi, home of the Oracle. The youthful Apollo encountered the Drako (dragon or serpent), called Puthon (Πυθον) at the city of Delphi, and killing her with one hundred arrows (the source of one of Apollo’s many epithets, hekateros-hundred missiles, this from Simonides), assumed control of Delphi. Putho could ultimately derive from puthein (πυθειν) to rot, as Apollo boasted over her corpse,
`Now rot here upon the soil that feeds man! You at least shall live no more to be a fell bane to men who eat the fruit of the all-nourishing earth, and who will bring hither perfect hecatombs. Against cruel death neither Typhoios [her consort] shall avail you nor ill-famed Khimaira [her spawn], but here, shall the Earth and shining Hyperion make you rot.’ From the Homeric Hymn 3 to Apollo 356 ff (translated by Evelyn-White)
The word python wasn’t used to denote the genus of snakes until 1803 when French zoologist François Marie Daudin (25 March 1774 – 1804) identified the genus.
Image of a reticulated python courtesy flickr user belgian chocolate, used with permission under a creative commons 3.0 license.
Image of python skull courtesy Ryan Somma under a Creative Commons 2.0 Share alike attribution license.
Image of Apollo kills Python. Engraving by Virgil Solis for Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in the public domain.
“Extinction is the rule, survival is the exception. You have to know the past to understand the present.”—Carl Sagan, The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God (via we-are-star-stuff)
Called the German Marie Curie by Einstein and name stake of element 109, Lise Meitner studied physics under Max Planck and Niels Bohr and worked with Otto Hahn to discover nuclear fission. Hahn went on to win the Nobel Prize for their work, and Meitner’s omission from the prize is considered one of the most egregious times that a woman has been left off of the prize because of being female.