Monday, 29 April 2019

Captured 17-Foot-Long Python Was About to Have 73 Babies

By Laura Geggel, Associate Editor | April 8, 2019 03:44pm ET

Wildlife officials have captured a 17-foot-long (5.1 meters) Burmese python and a mother-to-be in Florida's Big Cypress National Preserve — the longest python ever found in the preserve, which neighbors the Everglades.
But even though her size and her weight of 140 lbs. (63 kilograms) likely puts her in the top 10% of the largest wild pythons in Florida, the number of eggs found inside her — 73 in all — is absolutely flooring, said David Penning, an assistant professor of biology at Missouri Southern State University, who was not involved with the snake's capture.
"I would say that's far above average," Penning told Live Science. "A normal quantity to expect is probably a couple dozen, maybe 40 or 50. And that would be a good year if you were trying to breed these animals." [Image Gallery: Snakes of the World]
Burmese pythons (Python bivittatus) are an invasive species in Florida. They likely got into the wild not only because of pet owners who decided to release them, but also from hurricanes that aided in their escape from captivity. Given that they're invasive, why are pythons so successful in the Sunshine State?
Mothers such as this one are part of the answer, Penning said. Now that it's springtime, mother snakes are laying eggs. These 4- to 5-inch-long (10 to 13 centimeters) oval eggs take up so much space inside the mother, that she has to stop eating because she literally can't fit anything else inside her body, Penning said. Even her organs get scrunched and pushed out of the way.
"It's impressive," he said. "It's like shoving a bunch of pool balls into a sock, but there's just more than what seems like [the snake] can fit."

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