A giant Burmese python found in the Florida Everglades has set a record for its size, spanning 17 feet 7 inches, and weighing almost 165 pounds. But it wasn't just the outside that set records: Scientists discovered the python was carrying 87 eggs.
Previous records for Burmese pythons captured in the area were 16.8 feet long and 85 eggs, according to the University of Florida.
The snake is just the latest evidence of Florida's growing problem with the exotic, highly adaptable species that has a foothold in Everglades National Park and increasingly threatens native wildlife. Florida is believed to have the world's worst invasive reptile and amphibian problem. (Last year, a python made headlines when it was found to havedevoured a 76-pound whitetail deer.)
The latest python had been captured months ago by scientists who tagged it with a transmitter and released it back into the wild, where it served as a sort of slithery spy, leading experts to the snakes' breeding grounds, according to the Sun Sentinel. When the snake had served its purpose, scientists recaptured and exterminated it. The newspaper said it was kept in a freezer until last Friday, when scientists at the Florida Museum of Natural History opened up the snake for a look inside.
That's when they found the eggs.
Skip Snow, a wildlife biologist for Everglades National Park,was quoted in Biology News Net as saying the bellyful of eggs gave scientists greater insight into the species.
"I think one of the important facts about this animal is its reproductive capability," Snow said. "There are not many records of how many eggs a large female snake carries in the wild. This shows they're a really reproductive animal, which aids in their invasiveness."
Biology News Net calls the Burmese python one of the deadliest invasive predators in the southern stretch of the state, in part because the creature has no natural predator. Experts estimate that thousands -- even hundreds of thousands -- of them could be loose.
The snakes, native to Southeast Asia, probably end up in the Everglades after outgrowing their stint as pets. Often purchased when small, the pythons inevitably grow into powerful, dominant reptiles. That's when clueless pet owners turn them loose, experts say.
There is also speculation that some of the snakes terrorizing the Everglades could have been freed when Hurricane Andrew tore through the area in 1992, destroying pet facilities.