Generally speaking, snakes are not the best parents in the world. Usually, snakes that lay eggs don’t do much apart from dropping them into a hole, covering them with dirt, and then leaving. About 30% of snakes give birth to live babies, but those don’t care too much either.
However, a new study, which the Journal of Zoology recently published, might change this common perception. It seems that at least one species of egg-laying pythons cares a bit for its offspring. Graham Alexander is a reptile researcher the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He spent seven years studying the pythons there.
Such species can grow up to 16 feet in length and can take down animals as large as an antelope. So, using cameras and radio transmitters, Alexander monitored 37 pythons. Over the course of his study, eight of those laid eggs.
Then, using infrared cameras, he recorded the new mothers’ behavior. An interesting change that was observed is that mother pythons turn from dark brown to black, probably to absorb more warmth from the sun.
After raising their body temperature in the sun, they return and keep their eggs warm over the night. The females do the same thing for the newborn babies for around two weeks. After that, these are left on their own.
Pythons are Not Such Bad Parents After All
However, why is this particular snake a good parent and the others are not? Experts think that this might be somehow tied up to what their babies eat. When they are born, baby pythons are full of undigested egg yolk. This makes them slow and not mobile and therefore, easy prey for other animals. The mother snake keeps them warm until they entirely digest the yolk. After that, they’re free to go.
There is a cost, however. It seems that while she does this, the mother snake loses a lot of weight because she doesn’t hunt anymore. This also makes her an easier prey. It’s interesting that this study shows how much we still have to learn about snakes and their behavior.
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