Experts at the St. Louis Zoo are trying to figure out how a 62-year-old ball python laid seven eggs despite not being near a male python for more than 15 years. Mark Wanner, manager of herpetology at the zoo, said it unusual but not rare for ball pythons to reproduce asexually. The snakes also sometimes store sperm for delayed fertilization.
On July 23, something incredible happened at the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium at the Saint Louis Zoo — a ball python laid eggs! That might not sound too thrilling to some, but to our Herpetarium staff it definitely was. This particular female snake is over 50 years old (the oldest snake documented in a Zoo) and has not been with a male in over 15 years!
Ball pythons, native to central and western Africa, are known to reproduce sexually and asexually, which is called facultative parthenogenesis. Snakes are also known to store sperm for delayed fertilization. Now the question is, which of the two explanations is the reason for the eggs? Without genetic testing, Zoo staff won’t know if this ball python reproduced sexually or asexually, but they intend to find out. As the keepers continue to incubate the eggs, they will be sending off samples for genetic testing. #KeeperPerspective #BringTheStlZooToYou
The birth also is unusual because ball pythons usually stop laying eggs long before they reach their 60s, Wanner said.
“She’d definitely be the oldest snake we know of in history,” to lay eggs, Wanner said, noting the she is the oldest snake ever documented in a zoo.
The python, which has not been given a name, laid the eggs July 23. Three of the eggs remain in an incubator, two were used for genetic sampling and snakes in the other two eggs did not survive, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The eggs that survive should hatch in about a month.
The genetic sampling will show whether the eggs were reproduced sexually or asexually, called facultative parthenogenesis.
The snake who laid the eggs has no name but is known as Number 361003, the Post-Dispatch reported. She came to the zoo in 1961 from a private owner.
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