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The Everglades National Park in Florida has long been dealing with the issue of invasive species. One of the most problematic species has been the Burmese python.
While there are snakes in the Everglades, the Burmese python is not native to the Florida Everglades ecosystem. Their presence in the Everglades is the result of exotic pet owners dumping their pets there when they could no longer care for them.
Live Science explains, “These snakes were first brought to Florida as exotic pets, and were introduced into the state's wilderness in the 1980s. Since then, Burmese pythons have increased in numbers to tens of thousands and have waged war against small mammals.”
Since there are no natural predators for the Burmese python, they have been able to reproduce unchecked, and park rangers have seen a proliferation in their population that increases every year. The result has been devastating for small mammal and bird populations within the National Everglades Park.
Now, a recent study published in the Ecology and Evolution journal suspects that some of the Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades are actually hybrid snakes, sharing genes with the Indian python. Live Science explains, “some of these Burmese pythons carry genetic traces from another, distinct species, making them robust hybrids.”
Live Science goes on to say, “A combination of robust genes from both snake species could create pythons with ‘hybrid vigor’ that are capable of living in a wide range of environments and are better-adapted to climate change, according to the study. Indian pythons typically live in higher and drier areas, according to The Guardian, while Burmese pythons like water, preferring to dwell in riverine forests and flooded grasslands.”
The discovery of the presence of these hybrid pythons is concerning for researchers and conservationists because it further compounds the python threat within the Florida Everglades ecosystem.