Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

A 62-year-old python at the St. Louis Zoo laid seven eggs and she didn’t need a man to do it.

The snake, who goes by number 361003, hadn’t been near a male in at the very least 15 years.
“It was a surprise. We didn’t expect her to drop another clutch of eggs, honestly,” Mark Wanner, the St. Louis Zoo’s Zoological Manager of Herpetology told CNN.

The zoo’s staff noticed changes in the snake’s behavior beforehand but didn’t think she was going to drop that clutch on behalf of her age.

“She’d definitely be the oldest snake we know of in history (to lay eggs),” Wanner told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Snake 361003 is a ball python, which hails from central and western Africa and is able to reproduce asexually.
It’s a process known as facultative parthenogenesis.
Komono dragons and other reptile species are also able to use this process.

“Usually female snakes lay eggs after mating with a male, but in rare circumstances, they can produce young without mating in a process called parthenogenesis. There are several reported cases involving ball pythons,” Tygerberg Animal Hospital’s Dr. Stephen Smith told News 24. “Several lizard species do this as their only method of reproduction – the populations only consist of females.”

The females in this species can also store sperm and use it later for fertilization. The sperm is typically stored for a year or two.
The longest anyone has seen a female carry sperm was seven years.
The last time this snake laid eggs was in 2009 but none of them matched and she hasn’t been around a male snake since.

The last time this snake would have been with a male was in the late 80s or early 90s.
“We’re saying 15 plus years, but I mean, it’s probably easily closer to 30 years since she’s been physically with a male,” Wanner said.

The zoo would have to conduct testing to find out whether or not the eggs were sexually or asexually.

“We can’t wait for the samples to be tested to actually get that information because that will end any of the hearsay or whatever we might think could or couldn’t be,” Wanner said.

“If they continue to live and continue to develop, we expect hatching to be in the next two to three weeks. We’ve got our fingers crossed that one of these animals will hatch, but we don’t know for sure.”

Three of the snake’s eggs were placed into an incubator at Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium. They are expected to hatch in about a month. Two were used for genetic sampling.
The other two eggs didn’t survive. The ball pythons get their name for the way they roll up in a ball to protect their heads when they are threatened.
“There are many different captive-bred color varieties, some of which can be very expensive to buy,”