The Ball Python (Python regius)
The Ball Python is a fascinating animal in a variety of ways. Just recently, it has been reported that a 62-year-old female snake in the Saint Louis Zoo laid a batch of eggs. This is shocking to both the zookeepers as well as the scientific community at large. Let's find out why.
Physical Description and Behavior
Ball pythons are about a foot long when they hatch, and are independant immediately. They then grow up to 6 feet long by the time they reach adulthood. These are strong snakes often identified by their camo-esque pattern on their skin.
Fun fact: Ball Pythons can have discoloration disorders. So it is not unlikely to see a yellow albino python. They can also have a variety of other color and stripe combinations.
The main thing about the python in the news article that makes the story so interesting is the age of the python and the lack of a mate. Ball pythons usually only live to 20 years in captivity on average, so it is unusual to see one that has survived up until the age of 62. Laying eggs at this age also is highly unlikely, as egglaying stops long before this time.
This snake also has not been around the male for at least 15 years. While pythons and many other animals have the ability to delay fertilization, this often never happens after a few years, let alone 15 years after intercourse. However, it is possible for some animals, like the kimono dragon, who otherwise would need to reproduce sexually to reproduce asexually. This process is called facultative parthenogenesis.
Habitat and Location
Ball pythons spend most of their time on the ground or in burrows. They mostly reside in grasslands and open forests. They are considered of Least Concern according to the IUCN Red List.
They can be found all over the world as they are commonly kept as pets. However, their native habitat is located in a belt around mid-Africa. This includes Senegal and Guinea, past Nigeria and Cameroon, all the way to Uganda and South Sudan.
To learn more about pythons in general, watch this video below: