Python Predation: Big snakes poised to change U.S. ecosystems

Brought to the U.S. as pets, Burmese pythons have made headlines with their uncontrolled spread in the Florida Everglades and willingness to challenge alligators for the position of top predator. A report released by the U.S. Geological Survey last fall delivered more bad news: two other constrictor species, also former pets, are thriving in the area, and six others could pose similar threats. Researchers fear that reproductive populations could spread and eat native animals into extinction.

The new interlopers—northern and southern African pythons, reticulated pythons, boa constrictors and four species of anacondas—have “ecological similarities,” explains Robert Reed, a USGS biologist and one of the authors of the report. “They are large invasive predators that native birds and mammals aren’t adapted to, and they are highly fecund, capable of producing up to 100 hatchlings in one nest.” They’re also big; some grow up to 20 feet and 200 pounds. They seize prey with their teeth and then wrap around the prey’s body, squeezing it to death.

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