Written by Bella Dalima
22 Mar, 2014 | 4:00 pm
Most snakes don’t boast strong internal navigation systems, but Burmese pythons have evolved unusually accurate internal maps and compasses that guide them home from many miles away, according to a new report.
Burmese pythons — one of the largest species of snakes in the world, capable of growing more than 18 feet long — are native to southern Asia. However, they have become increasingly problematic invasive species in southern Florida over the past 15 years as a result of the (intentional or unintentional) release of pet snakes. They now span a habitat of more than 390 square miles through southern Florida, including much of Everglades National Park.
In hopes of better understanding and managing the ever-increasing Floridian python population, a team of researchers based at Davidson College in North Carolina studied the ability of the pythons to find their way back to a given location after being transported elsewhere.
The researchers gathered six snakes from Everglades National Park, attached radio transmitters to the animals and then placed them between 13 and 22 miles away from where they were captured. The scientists then observed the snakes’ ability to find their way home.
To the researchers’ surprise, all but one of the snakes were able to find their way back to within just 3 miles of their original location. In previous studies, other snake species have wandered around hopelessly, unable to find their way home, or have been able to navigate successfully back but from shorter distances. This is the longest distance a snake has ever been found to navigate back to a given location, the team reports.
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