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I have a standard wild-type Children's python (Antaresia childreni) that I'm planning on breeding in the next few years and was just sold a male "Children's python" that I think might actually be a spotted python (Antaresia maculosa). Unfortunately, he's of some kind of reduced pattern morph (granite, I think) that has completely blown out his natural patterning, so my main method of identification is useless.

I know that along with the Stimson's python (Antaresia stimsoni) all of these snakes have been identified as "Children's pythons" at some point in the not-too-distant past, but someone saw fit to distinguish between them and I can't seem to find any basis for doing so that isn't based on range and pattern, both of which are meaningless for a captive-bred snake of a morph that makes its natural pattern indiscernible.

Is there some reliable way to tell the difference between these snakes other than coloration and range? Perhaps some difference in number or placement of certain scales or details about the eyes?

I've included a picture in case anyone can comment and tell me what this little guy actually is on the basis of the modified pattern - but I'd still like a better way if anyone can provide a real answer.

Antaresia sp.

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I finally got frustrated enough to dig up A Revision of the Liasis childreni species-group (Serpentes: Boidae) L.A. Smith, 1985 - the original paper that split up this species complex, and when even Smith made primary determinations off of pattern and color alone, I took matters into my own hands and dug into the his raw data.

I have compiled the mean scale counts for each species into a table, and truncated any rows that showed no useful degrees of deviation for any species, resulting in the following:

             A. Childreni  A. Maculosa  A. Stimsoni  A. Stimsoni Orientalis  A. Perthensis
Ventrals     272.8        263.5         279.5        263.8                   232
Subcaudals   47.3         42.1          46.2         42.8                    38.7
Midbody      41.3         38.3          43.4         40.3                    32.7
Loreals      7.9          4.7           12.2         7.9                     7.3
Postoculars  3.6          3.1           4.2          3.8                     3.4
Pits         4.5          4             5.6          4.8                     3.1

I am including this table in its entirety to assist future identification efforts within the complex, as the original paper did a poor job of presenting this data.

The most useful difference for my purposes - distinguishing between A. maculosa and A. childreni - appears to be loreal scale count. The loreal scales sit between the eye and nostril of the snake, and do not include scales which belong to the orbital and nasal structures (The region marked "l" in the diagram below).

enter image description here

Following up on this, I examined a number of close-up photos of known examples of both species, and very quickly identified a distinctive difference in not just the count but also the pattern of loreal scales. Once you're looking in the right place, the difference is obvious.

A. Childreni showing its distinctive granularly-clustered loreal scales: enter image description here

A. Maculosa showing its smaller number of tightly structured loreal scales: enter image description here

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