Research on Invasive Burmese Pythons in Everglades National Park and the Southeastern United States
The Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) is a large constricting snake native to Southeast Asia that can reach a length of more than 20 feet. They are long-lived (15 – 35 years), a behavioral, habitat, and dietary generalist, capable of producing clutches of up to 100 eggs. This invasive exotic species is popular in the pet trade and is now firmly established in Everglades National Park and other parts of south Florida. Wild pythons pose a significant threat to many species of native wildlife. Currently, estimates of population sizes range from 30,000 to over 100,000 snakes. The semi-aquatic python’s diet in southern Florida includes raccoons, bobcats, white-tailed deer, wading birds, and alligators. Such predation has the potential to cause significant ecosystem disruption. The potential for these large snakes to kill humans is real, but predation on humans by large constricting snakes is extremely rare.

Because of the danger invasive pythons pose for many species of native wildlife, including numerous endangered species, and their potential to disrupt ecosystems, scientists are studying these invasive snakes to better understand the impacts they have on native wildlife and to develop methods for controlling their populations. Davidson College Professor Mike Dorcas is collaborating with other researchers on several of these studies some of which are now published and listed below:

A 16.5 foot long Burmese python captured in Everglades National Park.

Book: - Dorcas, M.E. and J.D. Willson. 2011. Invasive Pythons in the United States - Ecology of an Introduced Predator. University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA. Order on Amazon

Papers and Book Chapters:

  • Pittman, S.E, K.M. Hart, M.S. Cherkiss, R.W. Snow, I. Fujisaki, B.J. Smith, F.J. Mazzotti, M.E. Dorcas. 2014. Homing of Invasive Burmese Pythons in South Florida: Evidence for map and compass senses in snakes. Biology Letters http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2014.0040 pdf
  • Dorcas, M. E. and J. D. Willson. 2013. Hidden giants: problems associated with studying secretive invasive pythons. In: W. Lutterschmidt (ed.), Reptiles in Research: Investigations of Ecology, Physiology, and Behavior from Desert to Sea. Nova Science Publishers, Inc., Hauppauge, NY pdf
  • Reed, R.N., J.D. Willson, G.H. Rodda, and M.E. Dorcas.2012. Ecological correlates of invasion impact for Burmese pythons in Florida. Integrative Zoology 7:254-270. pdf
  • Dorcas, M.E., J.D. Willson, R.N. Reed, R.W. Snow, M.R. Rochford, M.A. Miller, W.E. Mehsaka, Jr., P.T. Andreadis, F.J. Mazzotti, C.M. Romagosa, K.M. Hart. 2012. Severe Mammal Declines Coincide with Proliferation of Invasive Burmese Pythons in Everglades National Park. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. pdf
  • Dorcas, M.E., J.D. Willson, and J.W. Gibbons. 2011. Can invasive Burmese pythons inhabit temperate regions of the southeastern United States? Biological Invasions. DOI: 10.1007/s10530-010-9869-6. pdf
  • Willson, J.D., M.E. Dorcas, and R.W. Snow. 2011. Identifying plausible scenarios for the establishment of invasive Burmese pythons (Python molurus) in southern Florida. Biological Invasions 13:1498-1504. pdf
  • Mazzotti, F.J., M.S. Cherkiss, K.M. Hart, R.W. Snow, M.R. Rochford, M.E. Dorcas, and R. N. Reed. 2011. Cold-induced mortality of invasive Burmese pythons in south Florida. Biological Invasions 13:143-151. DOI 10.1007/s10530-010-9797-5. pdf

Other Projects:

  • Investigations of the movement patterns and habitat use of free-ranging pythons.
  • Control of heating and cooling rates in pythons
  • Temperature variation in free-raning pythons
  • Studies of the risk invasive pythons pose to native species and ecosystems.

COLLABORATORS:
University of Arkansas: J.D. Willson
National Park Service: Skip Snow
University of Florida: Frank Mazzotti
USGS: Kristen Hart, Mike Cherkiss, Gordon Rodda, Bob Reed
UGA-SREL: Whit Gibbons
Auburn University: Christina Romagosa, Melissa Miller
Davidson College:
Shannon Pittman


 

 

For more information, contact Dr. Michael E. Dorcas - midorcas@davidson.edu
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