A 16-foot female python has laid a record-breaking nest or “clutch” of 96 eggs. For reference, the average python in Florida has clutch sizes of 22 to 84 eggs, making this, according to the study, “the largest number of eggs in a single wild python nest recorded to date in Florida.”
Burmese pythons are elusive and hard to find and track. This snake was studied using a radio transmitter installed by researchers from the Fort Collins Science Center and USGS Science Center in South Florida. The researchers were lucky when the snake began to nest in Big Cyprus National Preserve.
“We were interested in putting radio transmitters on some of her young,” Dr. Amy A. Yackel Adams, a research ecologist and member of the team who found the python, told F&S. The team was able to install transmitters on some of the young, which they hope will “inform population models to improve management,” says Adams. “We want to better understand if there are vulnerabilities in their different life stages that we could tap into.”
Of the eggs in the nest, 83 appeared to have hatched and 13 were intact but nonviable. The eggs and eggshells were removed from the field and preserved. “The fact that a 16-foot python could have 96 eggs, shows their reproductive potential to be really high,” Adams says.
The snakes’ voracious appetite and large clutch sizes spell trouble for the Greater Everglades Ecosystem. Florida’s invasive pythons have been known to swallow deer and have decimated native animal populations in the region. Adams is confident that finding a snake with such high reproductive potential, while a lucky find, is more common than researchers have been able to record. She says the fertile python is likely “one of many.”