Saturday, 22 March 2014

There's no place like home for Burmese pythons

March 2014: Unlike most other snakes Burmese pythons have homing sense, and will find their way back if moved.

A team of researchers including scientists from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has discovered that the giant snakes can find their way home even when moved more than 20 miles away.
“This is way more sophisticated behavior than we’ve been attributing to them,” said Frank Mazzotti, from the Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center. “It’s one of those things where nature makes us go ‘wow.’ That is truly the significance of this.”

In 2006 and 2007, researchers captured 12 pythons and surgically implanted radio transmitters that allowed them to track the snakes’ movements. As a control group, they returned six of the snakes to the spot of their capture and turned them loose.

The remaining six snakes were taken to spots ranging from 13 to 22 miles away from where they had been captured and turned loose. To the researchers’ surprise, the snakes oriented themselves toward “home” and maintained their bearings as they traveled.

And although it took between 94 and 296 days for five of the six snakes to get within three miles of home, partly due to it being the snakes’ dormant season, the reptiles kept that orientation – a clear signal to scientists that the snakes have both “map” and “compass” senses.

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