This week, St Louis Zoo announced that a 65-year-old python, who hasn’t been in contact with a male for over 15 years, has given birth.
We’ve always known that animals are incredible, but this ball python has proved that females really can do just about anything, even the unthinkable. We’ve got a real Virgin Mary, birth of Christ situation on our hands.
At 65 years old, this python laid seven eggs in July despite having no contact with a male python for over a decade.
The zoo’s announcement on Instagram was met with some hilarious responses, and the ball python has even been hailed a the second coming of the Virgin Mary.
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On July 23, something incredible happened at the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium at the Saint Louis Zoo — a ball python laid eggs! That might not sound too thrilling to some, but to our Herpetarium staff it definitely was. This particular female snake is over 50 years old (the oldest snake documented in a Zoo) and has not been with a male in over 15 years! Ball pythons, native to central and western Africa, are known to reproduce sexually and asexually, which is called facultative parthenogenesis. Snakes are also known to store sperm for delayed fertilization. Now the question is, which of the two explanations is the reason for the eggs? Without genetic testing, Zoo staff won’t know if this ball python reproduced sexually or asexually, but they intend to find out. As the keepers continue to incubate the eggs, they will be sending off samples for genetic testing. #Keeperperspective #bringthestlzootoyou 🐍🥚🥚🥚
There have been a few theories circulating about how this is possible, with various credibility. The first is extremely unlikely, and the zoo is not in support of it, but sceptics are speculating whether this was a result of some secret love affair in the night (is a Disney version of this theory possibly coming?).
The other two theories are based on scientific observations of reptiles. It’s been proven that ball pythons, amongst other reptiles, have the ability to store sperm for delayed fertilisation – so it’s possible that our python was holding onto sperm from her last encounter, even it was 15 years ago.
The other likely theory is that she reproduced asexually. Asexual reproduction, known as facultative parthenogenesis, is a common process in several insects and plants. It’s a completely natural form of reproduction for certain species, and an unfertilised egg can grow and develop without sperm in certain cases.
The zoo isn’t sure yet which of the latter theories is correct, but they’re hoping to find out through DNA testing once the eggs hatch. Our money is on asexual reproduction, because this python is an absolute powerhouse.