Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Q&A and video with the authors of Invasive Pythons in the United States

Michael E. Dorcas and John D. Willson are the authors of INVASIVE PYTHONS IN THE UNITED STATES, which Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson calls “a much-needed examination of the growing impact of Burmese pythons as an invasive species in the United States.” In our latest newsletter, Inside UGA Press, Dorcas and Willson discuss the new book with editor Laura Sutton.

Sutton: Are we going to see pythons in Georgia anytime soon?

Willson: This is the most controversial aspect of the python situation. I think the short answer is that it is pretty unlikely that we’ll see pythons in Georgia anytime soon. If they can expand from Florida, it will take quite a while for the population to work its way north. How far north they can go is hotly debated and still remains an unknown. Certainly in their native range, they do inhabit some fairly temperate areas, such as central China and the foothills of the Himalayas in India and Nepal. We conducted a study in South Carolina where we brought pythons from Florida and wintered them in central South Carolina, and they did not survive.

Dorcas: There are multiple issues related to this question that we really don’t have answers for. For a lot of the snakes and also for most of the pythons that died in South Carolina, the reason they died was behavior, and the rate at which that behavior can evolve is unknown. The other thing we don’t know about is their origin. The snakes in Florida were clearly acclimated to Florida temperatures and climate. We don’t know what their ability to survive would have been if they had been raised in South Carolina. Typically when discussing this issue, people are talking about the spread of pythons from south Florida to more temperate areas, but there is also the possibility that additional populations could be established through release or escape into other parts of the southeastern United States.

Read the full Q&A on page 9 of our newsletter.

See Mike Dorcas and his students talk about their research while holding a giant python in this video.

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