Dr. Shannon Pittman, a postdoctoral fellow at Davidson College is studying the navigation abilities of the Burmese Python. Pittman and her colleagues moved 12 pythons away from their homes in the Everglades and monitored their movements using a radio tracker. Because snakes don’t have limbs for easy attachment like birds or turtles they had to put them under anesthesia and implant the tracker within the body. Knowledge of how the Burmese Pythons navigate may give insight on how to better stop their spread.
The pythons are native to Southeast Asia, however due to releases by pet owners they have established an invasive population in Florida. The first Burmese Python to be seen in the U.S. was in Everglades National Park in 1979, and since then their population has grown to an estimated 100,000. The Everglades are an ideal habitat for the pythons where they are out competing native snakes. They prey on numerous species of Florida wildlife including reptiles, birds, and mammals – some of which are unfortunately at risk of going locally extinct. Burmese pythons grow rapidly and can reach up to almost 19 feet long, and a few have even been captured feasting on alligators.
Pittman’s research showed that the snakes could find their way home, but she isn’t yet sure of how they were able to. Current theories include celestial cues and navigation by the stars. Hopefully, further studies will be able to reveal more information that will allow scientists to stop the Burmese Python population from diffusing.
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