September 20, 2009

Could 2 python species mate in Florida?

Scientists say the African rock python and the Burmese python could mate in the Florida Everglades, producing a vigorous possibly man-eating hybrid.

Burmese pythons are known to be breeding in the Everglades National Park and naturalists estimate about 100,000 live in the area. Five rock pythons have been captured or killed near the Everglades recently, ABC News reports.

Both species are invaders, most pets released when they got too big. Both can grow to be more than 20 feet long.

It's a big petri dish, Kevin Enge, an invasive species expert with the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told ABC. You keep introducing things and, yeah, you don't know what's going to turn out.

Burmese and rock pythons have mated in zoos, although scientists do not know if they are capable of producing a viable hybrid that could continue to reproduce.

The rock python is a much more aggressive species than the Burmese python and has been known to kill and eat people in Africa. Kenneth Krysko, a senior biologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History, described the African species as mean right out of the egg, and they don't ever tame down.