It isn’t all that unusual for a Python to lay eggs in captivity, but when a ball Python at the St. Louis zoo did it this summer, the caretakers couldn’t quite figure it out. After all, she is 62 years old and maybe the oldest snake ever known to lay eggs. On top of that, she hasn’t been around a male python in over 15 years according to a Facebook post made by the zoo.
The ball Python laid the clutch of 7 eggs on July 23. 2 were taken for genetic sampling, 2 were not capable of development and the other 3 are being kept in an incubator. They think that the eggs will hatch next month.
Genetic analysis will take place to reveal if the eggs were produced asexually or sexually. Asexual reproduction, also known as facultative parthenogenesis, does not commonly happen in snakes. It does happen on occasion, as well as in other vertebrates, such as sharks, lizards, and birds.
It may also be that the female snake had been storing sperm to fertilize eggs with it. A male ball Python does live at the zoo but he is in a separate enclosure. The 2 snakes did not come in contact with each other physically in over 15 years, so that would mean that she held onto the sperm for over a decade.
If that isn’t strange enough, this female Python is much older than other ball pythons when they reproduce. She has been at the St. Louis zoo since 1961 when she was surrendered by her owner. This ball Python is the oldest recorded snake in captivity at 62-years-old. She has now become one of the oldest ball Python mothers of all time. Neither of the pythons are currently on display to the public.
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