FLORIDA (CBS Local) – A study of Florida’s python population has discovered some unnerving information about a possibly terrifying new breed of slithering creatures. Researchers believe a hybrid “super snake” could be lurking in the Florida Everglades and may start traveling far beyond their home as well.
A genetic study, published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, examined hundreds of pythons now living in South Florida. While most of the tail tissue revealed the snakes were Burmese pythons, the DNA of 13 pythons turned up with something extra in them. The snakes showed signs they were crossbred with Indian pythons, a creature which usually lives in higher and dryer areas.
Scientists say the hybrid pythons could turn out to be “super snakes” because of the fear they’ve inherited the best qualities from both species – a process known as hybrid vigor.
“Hybrid vigor can potentially lead to a better ability to adapt to environmental stressors and changes. In an invasive population like the Burmese pythons in South Florida, this could result in a broader or more rapid distribution,” the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said in a statement.
With Burmese pythons preferring wetlands and Indian pythons favoring higher ground, a new breed of super snakes could possibly spread north into dryer regions of Florida.
“It’s quite interesting and quite surprising, but we don’t know the extent it’s in the population,” USGS geneticist Margaret Hunter said, via the Miami Herald.
Burmese pythons are among the largest snakes on Earth, growing up to 23 feet in length and weighing around 200 pounds. They are carnivores and the invasive species has been blamed for the drop in many smaller mammals in Florida.