This 17 foot Burmese python had 87 eggs inside of waiting to be laid when the researchers looked inside. (Photo : University of Florida/Kristen Grace)
Shark week might have everybody thinking about Jaws, but there's one predator that was recently found in the Florida Everglades that easily rivals a great white shark in length. If you're thinking it's an alligator, you're wrong. The University of Florida examined 17-foot 7-inch Burmese python and found 87 eggs inside the pregnant behemoth. The sheer size of the python has researchers worried that the invasive species is thriving and ravaging wildlife in the Everglades.
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The python also weighed in at a whopping 164.5 pounds and is the largest Burmese python caught in Florida history.
"This thing is monstrous, it's about a foot wide," said Kenneth Krysko, manager of the Florida Museum herpetology collection. "It means these snakes are surviving a long time in the wild, there's nothing stopping them and the native wildlife are in trouble."
The Burmese python, as its name implies, is not native to South Florida, but rather Southeast Asia. They were first found in the Everglades in 1978, and found to be an established, reproducing species in Florida in 2000. Florida has the world's biggest problem with invasive reptile and amphibian species thanks to the pet trade. Many of the pythons in the Everglades are simpy released snakes that owners no longer wanted.
The Burmese python poses a predatory threat to native alligators and endangered bird species. A paper published earlier in the year showed that pythons were responsible for lowering sightings of raccoons and opossums by around 98 percent, with many other species' sightings down an incredible 90 percent or more. With no natural predators in the Everglades, these pythons are left to eat and reproduce to their heart's content.
"A 17.5-foot snake could eat anything it wants," Krysko said. "By learning what this animal has been eating and its reproductive status, it will hopefully give us insight into how to potentially manage other wild Burmese pythons in the future. It also highlights the actual problem, which is invasive species."
Watch a video of how the snake was captured: