A genetic study published on Sunday raised the question on whether or not a super snake could emerge in the Florida Everglades after it was revealed a small number of Burmese and Indian pythons have been breeding.
The journal Ecology and Evolution reported that experts examined tail tissue of 400 captured snakes from South Florida and found 13 had some genetic indicators that point to Indian pythons, according to The Miami Herald.
The Indian pythons, unlike the Burmese pythons, prefer high and dry grounds, the report said.
Margaret Hunter, a geneticist at the U.S. Geological Survey and lead author of the report, said the Indian pythons have a “wider range.”
Hunter said seeing the Indian marker was “unexpected,” and she had to keep looking at the data “to make sure what she was seeing was correct.”
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Tens of thousands of pythons are estimated to be slithering through the Everglades. Scientists say the giant constrictor snakes, which can grow over 20 feet long, have eliminated 99 percent of the native mammals in the Everglades, decimating food sources for native predators such as panthers and alligators.
The area also was habitat for American crocodiles, one of the protected native species in the Everglades that officials say are losing ground to the invasive pythons.
Hunter said in the report that it is unclear how the species got crossed, but scientists believe that the snakes could head north due to the warming planet.
“Such a large population allows them to rapidly adapt,” she said. “If some animals die out because of climatic issues, there are other animals that may not die out.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report