An elderly ball python at the Saint Louis Zoo in Missouri, which has inhabited the zoo since 1961, laid seven eggs recently. And while snakes laying eggs is a usual occurrence, the zoo keepers were very surprised to see this happen.
This was because she had not come in contact with a male for more than 30 years!!
Another reason for the zoo keepers’ surprise was the age of the mother – this python, who does not have a named but is identified by the number 361003 – is an estimated 62 years of age and is also known to be the oldest living snake in a zoo.
This snake was given to the in 1961 by a private donor and was known to be three years old at that time.
Mark Wanner, the Zoological Manager of Herpetology told CNN, “It was a surprise. We didn’t expect her to drop another clutch of eggs, honestly.”
Some reptiles, however, are known to reproduce asexually and the zoo is using genetic testing to determine whether the eggs were produced in this manner. Wanner also confirmed that the zoo would publish the information if testing confirmed that the reproduction was asexual.
Another possibility is that the snake would have stored the sperm for delayed fertilization. But, this snake has not been around a male for close to three decades now.
“We’re saying 15 plus years, but I mean, it’s probably easily closer to 30 years since she’s been physically with a male,” Wanner said.
Three eggs of the seven have survived and are in an incubator while two are being used for genetic testing. The incubated ones are expected to hatch in a month.
Ball pythons, also called royal pythons, are native to central and western Africa.