EVERGLADES, Fla – In a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey, researchers examined tissue of 400 pythons captured in South Florida. The findings were surprising.
“We were quite surprised to find that while we were looking at the Burmese population in Florida, we found a small number of these animals appeared to be introgressed with Indian pythons,” said Dr. Margaret Hunter with the USGS.
In an interview with Local 10, Hunter said at least 13 snakes appeared to be genetic crossbreeds of the Burmese python and the Indian python.
Could these crossbreeds be considered “super pythons?”
Most scientists say no.
“I wouldn't go as far as saying a ‘super python.’” Hunter said. “It may give these individuals some greater potential to adapt.”
Dr. Bryan Falk, an invasive species expert at Everglades National Park, said crossbreeding of other animals and reptiles is nothing new.
“What we worry about is that they have now greater genetic variability,” Falk said.
While the USGS study did not look at what the genetic findings could mean for pythons in the Everglades, genetic variability could mean the snakes are heartier and better at surviving.
That’s not good news for the Everglades, which has already been ravaged by invasive pythons eating native mammals.
“I think it's going to take a significant amount of research and investment for us to be able to solve the problem, but I am optimistic that one day we will be able to solve it. We just need technology to advance and that one day we might have an everglades without pythons,” Falk said.
Some scientists say efforts of sanctioned python hunters, who have eliminated hundreds of snakes over the last several years, are making a small dent in the population.
Dusty Crum, also known as Wildman, said he has captured record-size snakes as part of a program started by the South Florida Water Management District.
On a recent python hunting expedition with Local 10, Crum and his crew captured a small snake in an area off U.S. 41.
Whether the slithery creature was a pure-breed Burmese python or introgressed with an Indian python was of no matter to Crum. He said he was just happy to have it out of the ecosystem.
“It’s not a monster, but it's one less snake that's eating our native animals,” Crum said.