A new squeeze? Snake mystery after lone, elderly python lays clutch of eggs

Experts at a US zoo are trying to figure out how a 62-year-old ball python laid seven eggs despite not being near a male python for at least two decades.

Three of the eggs from the snake in St Louis zoo 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 were laid on 23 July and should hatch in about a month.

Mark Wanner, manager of herpetology at the zoo in Missouri, said it was unusual though not rare for ball pythons to reproduce asexually. The snakes also sometimes store sperm for delayed fertilisation.

The genetic sampling will show whether the eggs were reproduced sexually or asexually, called facultative parthenogenesis.

The only other ball python in the zoo’s herpetarium is a male aged about 31. The snakes are not on public view.

The female snake – which is known only as 361003 – laid a clutch of eggs in 1990 that might have been conceived with the male because at the time, the snakes were put in buckets together while their cages were cleaned.

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 she is the oldest snake ever documented in a zoo. A private owner gave the female to the zoo in 1961.

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