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62-Year-Old Snake Lays 7 Eggs — 15 Years After She Was Last Near A Male

Caitlyn Clancey 12 Sep 2020

A 62-year-old ball python has Missouri zoo experts scratching their heads after she laid seven eggs — more than 15 years after she was last anywhere near a male.

As CNN reported, staff at the Saint Louis Zoo were understandably stunned to find their oldest snake had just become a mother seven times over, seemingly without any help from a male. But believe it or not, this isn't even the first time she's pulled this trick.

The snake, identified only by the number 361003, was discovered coiled around her eggs by zoo officials on July 23.

Facebook | Saint Louis Zoo

"That might not sound too thrilling to some, but to our Herpetarium staff it definitely was," a Facebook post from the zoo announcing the birth said. "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!"

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Ball pythons have been known to reproduce asexually, but what's unusual is just how long of a gap this particular snake had between her last encounter with a male.

Wikimedia | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Python-regius-kopf-k%C3%B6nigspython.jpg

"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," Mark Wanner, the Zoological Manager of Herpetology told CNN.

The last time this particular snake came into connect with a male was likely sometime in the late 1980s to early 1990s, because that was when keepers would put snakes in the same bucket while their cages were cleaned.

While females can store sperm for delayed fertilization, the longest documented case of this was seven years.

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Not only are the biological circumstances of the eggs significant, but so is the fact that this female is estimated to be around 62 years old.

Unsplash | Tamara Gore

That's because female ball pythons typically stop laying eggs long before they ever reach the age of 60. But clearly, this particular snake wasn't ready to call it quits just yet.

"She'd definitely be the oldest snake we know of in history [to lay eggs]," Wanner told CBS News.

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As surprising of an event as this is, it isn't actually the first time this python has stunned zoo staff with some random eggs.

Giphy | NBA

She laid another batch back in 2009, again with any records of her having ever been around a male at that time, but sadly none of these eggs ever hatched.

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As of right now, two of the python's seven eggs have been taken for genetic testing to determine whether she reproduced naturally or asexually.

Facebook | Saint Louis Zoo

Two other eggs have died. The remaining three are being incubated, and are about halfway through their incubation period. Wanner said they expect to get the results of the genetic tests back within a month.

"We can't wait for the samples to be tested to actually get that information because that will end any of the hearsay or whatever we might think could or couldn't be," he said.

"If [the eggs] continue to live and continue to develop, we expect hatching to be in the next two to three weeks," he added. "We've got our fingers crossed that one of these animals will hatch, but we don't know for sure."

h/t: CNN, CBS News, Facebook | Saint Louis Zoo

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