Side Note

Inbred super-pythons are slithering amok in South Florida

Meet the “Florida Man” of reptiles.

South Florida has a python problem. Ever since the 1980’s, Burmese pythons have been slithering around the Everglades, eating everything from raccoons to rabbits to bobcats, fighting crocodiles and strengthening their numbers through freaky snake orgies. The snakes have few natural enemies beyond humans — and, given the fact that their bodies are chock-full of mercury, even if we killed them and tried to eat them, they’d probably poison us. As the earth heats up, there’s a chance the pythons will migrate further north.

And now, new research from the U.S. Geological Survey has found that, in addition to being royally pissed off and horny as hell, Florida’s Burmese pythons are all closely related, a potential indicator that the snakes have figured out which traits are most adaptable to their non-native environment. Additionally, South Florida’s Burmese pythons are mating with the region’s Indian pythons, yielding a new hybrid species of fucked-up super-python capable of thriving in both the wet environments preferred by the Burmese pythons as well as the dry climates favored by Indian pythons.

The U.S.G.S. information release quotes geneticist Margaret Hunter as saying that such mating patterns are a sign of “hybrid vigor,” where, as she puts it, “the best traits of two species are passed onto their offspring.” This, she adds, “Can potentially lead to a better ability to adapt to environmental stressors and changes. In an invasive population like the Burmese pythons in South Florida, this could result in a broader or more rapid distribution.”

Be forewarned. The snakes are coming.