Scientists shocked when snake lays eggs 15 years after last seeing male

Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 4:22 AM EDT
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ST. LOUIS (CNN) - Workers at the St. Louis Zoo were shocked and thrilled when a python who’s over 50 years old laid eggs, even though she hasn’t been near a male snake in more than 15 years.

The mom-to-be, a ball python, is the oldest known snake at any zoo. Ball pythons can reproduce both sexually and asexually. Snakes can also store sperm to fertilize later.

The zoo staff plans to do genetic testing on the eggs they’re incubating to determine which of these methods the python used to reproduce.

The zoo also recently announced one of their chimpanzees, an 18-year-old named Utamu, is pregnant and due to give birth in the fall.

On July 23, something incredible happened at the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium at the Saint Louis Zoo — a ball python laid eggs! That might not sound too thrilling to some, but to our Herpetarium staff it definitely was. 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! Ball pythons​, native to central and western Africa, are known to reproduce sexually and asexually, which is called facultative parthenogenesis. Snakes are also known to store sperm for delayed fertilization. Now the question is, which of the two explanations is the reason for the eggs? Without genetic testing, Zoo staff won't know if this ball python reproduced sexually or asexually, but they intend to find out. As the keepers continue to incubate the eggs, they will be sending off samples for genetic testing. #KeeperPerspective #BringTheStlZooToYou

Posted by Saint Louis Zoo on Thursday, September 3, 2020

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