Scientists find state record 87 eggs in largest python from Everglades

Aug 13, 2012 by Danielle Torrent
Researchers at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus prepare to examine the internal anatomy of a 17-foot-7-inch Burmese python, the largest found in Florida to date, on Aug. 10, 2012. The more than 164-pound snake carried a state record 87 eggs in its oviducts. The Burmese python is native to Southeast Asia and has been established and reproducing as an invasive species in Florida since 2000. Pictured are Claudia Grant (from left), Leroy Nunez and Nicholas Coutu. University of Florida photo by Kristen Grace/Florida Museum of Natural History

University of Florida researchers curating a 17-foot-7-inch Burmese python, the largest found in Florida, discovered 87 eggs in the snake, also a state record.

Scientists at the on the UF campus examined the internal anatomy of the 164.5-pound snake Friday. The animal was brought to the Florida Museum from as part of a long-term project with the U.S. Department of the Interior to research methods for managing the state's invasive Burmese python problem. Following , the snake will be mounted for exhibition at the museum for about five years, and then returned for exhibition at Everglades National Park.

"This thing is monstrous, it's about a foot wide," said Florida Museum herpetology collection manager Kenneth Krysko. "It means these snakes are surviving a long time in the wild, there's nothing stopping them and the are in trouble."

Krysko said the snake was in excellent health and its stomach contained feathers that will be identified by museum . Burmese pythons are known to prey on , deer, bobcats, alligators and other large animals.

"A 17.5-foot snake could eat anything it wants," Krysko said. "By learning what this animal has been eating and its reproductive status, it will hopefully give us insight into how to potentially manage other wild Burmese pythons in the future. It also highlights the actual problem, which is invasive species."

Native to Southeast Asia and first found in the Everglades in 1979, the Burmese python is one of the deadliest and most competitive predators in South Florida. With no known natural predator, for the python range from the thousands to hundreds of thousands. They were determined to be an established species in 2000 and are a significant concern, Krysko said.

On Aug. 10, 2012, University of Florida herpetologist Kenneth Krysko displays eggs found in the largest Burmese python from Florida to date. Florida Museum of Natural History researchers examined the internal anatomy of the 17-foot-7-inch snake Friday and found a state record 87 eggs in the python’s oviducts. An invasive species and one of the deadliest and most competitive predators in South Florida, the Burmese python was first found in the Everglades in 1979. University of Florida photo by Kristen Grace/Florida Museum of Natural History

"They were here 25 years ago, but in very low numbers and it was difficult to find one because of their cryptic behavior," Krysko said. "Now, you can go out to the Everglades nearly any day of the week and find a Burmese python. We've found 14 in a single day."

The rapid population growth led to recent state laws prohibiting people from owning Burmese pythons as pets or transporting the snakes across state lines without a federal permit. Florida residents also may hunt pythons in certain wildlife management areas during established seasons with a hunting license and required permits.

Everglades National Park and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are partnering with other agencies to address the increasing populations.

Skip Snow, a park wildlife biologist, said research of the snake's biology is important for understanding how to curtail the future spread of invasive species.

"I think one of the important facts about this animal is its reproductive capability," Snow said. "There are not many records of how many eggs a large female snake carries in the wild. This shows they're a really reproductive animal, which aids in their invasiveness."

Non-native species are considered invasive if they have a negative impact on native species or habitat, cause economic damage or pose a threat to human health and safety. Exotic snakes found in Florida are often the result of pet owners accidentally or intentionally releasing the animals. Citizens may dial 1-800-IVE-GOT1 to receive removal assistance by trained handlers.

Previous records for Burmese pythons captured in the wild were 16.8 feet long and 85 eggs.

"I'm really happy to be part of this team of researchers working on the Burmese python problem in Florida, and have been for a number of years," Krysko said. "But when I'm able to conduct this type of research here at the university, I'm able to teach new students and new researchers about anatomy and discuss the problem with . We need all the help we can get, we really do."

Florida has the world's worst invasive reptile and amphibian problem. Krysko led a 20-year study published in September 2011 in Zootaxa showing 137 non-native species were introduced to Florida between 1863 and 2010. The study verified the pet trade as the No. 1 cause of the species' introductions and the was one of 56 non-native species determined to be reproducing and established in the state.

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User comments : 11

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Shootist
Aug 13, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
SatanLover
1 / 5 (5) Aug 13, 2012
this is the rising co2 and loss of biodiversity is going to cause creatures to explode in size. carbon means more breathing food?
LariAnn
1.3 / 5 (11) Aug 13, 2012
"Non-native species" is accurate; "invasive" used in reference to these animals is pseudoscientific and is inflammatory language. Animals and plants native to planet Earth cannot "invade" the planet in a scientific sense. They can only occupy open or available niches, especially those made available by human activities. So if humans disrupt an ecosystem and a non-native species later moves in to occupy the open niche, who is the real "invader"?
Yellowdart
3.5 / 5 (6) Aug 13, 2012
@Lariann, Wouldn't the humans just be non-native as well then? Or are we not animals from Earth?
dschlink
5 / 5 (4) Aug 13, 2012
Invasive has a precise meaning in this case. It indicates an exotic species (non-native) that spreads rapidly through an eco-system due to a lack of predators.
DarkHorse66
1 / 5 (1) Aug 14, 2012
Phys.org certainly has a sense of humour; they have just loaded this article:
http://phys.org/n...ase.html
Maybe something like this as a form of bio-control (but a more selective version) might be an answer. Cheers, DH66
rockula
not rated yet Aug 14, 2012
This certainly cuts down on recreational swimming in the Everglades doesn't it?

Alligator food indeed, but these Pythons will overtake the Everglades eventually simply because they out pace the reproduction of their rivals.

Then once the food supply dwindles, they start moving inland (Thank you Captian Obvious!). So something has to be done for sure.

And to think this all probably started because some stoners thought it would be funny to see what happened. j/k.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Aug 14, 2012
This certainly cuts down on recreational swimming in the Everglades doesn't it?

If the alligators and the trillions of mosquitos per cubic meter didn't discourage you already then that find won't, either.

(If you ever visit the everglades wear long sleeves - no matter the temperature. This advice is brought to you by someone who didn't)

Lotsa potential alligator food
Alligators stand no chance against these snakes.
Sean_W
2.7 / 5 (7) Aug 14, 2012
The rapid population growth led to recent state laws prohibiting people from owning Burmese pythons as pets or transporting the snakes across state lines without a federal permit.

Unscramble: barn, left, door, have, horses, closing, the, after, the.
Florida residents also may hunt pythons in certain wildlife management areas during established seasons with a hunting license and required permits.

One can hunt rats in any season with no license and they are intelligent social mammals (not that I mind them being killed). Invasive killer monster snakes though must be protected?

And the term "invasive" is not some judgemental human insult, it is being used in a specifically defined way to refer to species which are both non-native and harm native species. An invasive species can, and often do, become "native" to the extent that they come to an equalibrium with the ecology but almost always after altering the local ecology.
rockwolf1000
not rated yet Aug 14, 2012
"Non-native species" is accurate; "invasive" used in reference to these animals is pseudoscientific and is inflammatory language. Animals and plants native to planet Earth cannot "invade" the planet in a scientific sense. They can only occupy open or available niches, especially those made available by human activities. So if humans disrupt an ecosystem and a non-native species later moves in to occupy the open niche, who is the real "invader"?

I'll tell you what's inflammatory. YOU!
rockula
not rated yet Aug 14, 2012
This certainly cuts down on recreational swimming in the Everglades doesn't it?

If the alligators and the trillions of mosquitos per cubic meter didn't discourage you already then that find won't, either.

(If you ever visit the everglades wear long sleeves - no matter the temperature. This advice is brought to you by someone who didn't)


I bet! The mosquitos down there probably more like Pterodactyl, and fly around with gators skeward like kabobs!

Lotsa potential alligator food
Alligators stand no chance against these snakes.


That's true... but I was speaking of all those little babies swimming around.

Good times.
packrat
1 / 5 (2) Aug 19, 2012
Are those things edible? If so that's a big pot of stew ingredients laying there!
Yea, I've been there too. You can hear those little blood suckers zeroing in on you from 10' away....