Each species has its own way of surviving in this world. Snakes have already been known as cold-blooded killers, ruthless for their prey. But are snakes kind parents? Snakes had never before been seen as good parents. Unlike humans, other mammals and even birds that feed their offspring, scientists have not recorded a snake gesture toward their descendants, until now.
Reptiles with the ability to lay eggs always make sure that the eggs are placed in a place that may be safe for their offspring. However, this is generally where your care ends. Usually, they leave the lair at that point, or as soon as the suckers are born.
Graham Alexander, from the University of Wits, South Africa, conducted a study that questions whether snakes are affectionate parents. The study found that southern African pythons (Python natalensis) remain in their nest until the eggs hatch, and even afterwards to ensure that offspring are growing well and healthy. However, the care of offspring has a great cost for mothers.
The researchers collected the data for the study through infrared cameras on radioeduced pythons that were laying eggs. They used eight female pythons to carry out their study. Those eight pythons were observed while taking care of their baby pythons during the two weeks after the hatching of the eggs. The snakes kept the babies safe and warm at night, tucked inside the coils of the mothers inside the nest.
"This is the first maternal baby report on a snake that lays eggs, and I was surprised at the complex reproductive biology of this iconic snake," Alexander said in a statement Wednesday.
However, this has a great cost for the mother python, which does not feed itself during this whole process of the snake. breeding cycle, which can last more than six months. Mothers generally lose about 40% of their body mbad during this time. Scientists have sometimes discovered that mother pythons have died after the breeding cycle, although all the pythons in the study survived.
While caring for them, the mother pythons transfer heat to the baby pythons after sunbathing in the sun outside the burrow. During this process, the skin of the mother pythons darkens and becomes almost black. Alexander called this process "facultative melanism."
"All this happens to the mother pythons: they take a long time to recover after reproduction and can only produce a clutch every second or third year, depending on how many meals they can catch in the months after leaving the nest. Some of them never recover … Maybe they got too weak to catch food, "he said in the statement.
Scientists discovered other extra facts during this process as well. Female pythons that were not breeding, were pregnant or were receptive had lower body temperatures. In addition, while the researchers observed the pythons, the male pythons followed the receptive females for months.
The findings of Alexander and his team were published in the Journal of Zoology and are based on a 7-year research project. During that time, they studied 37 pythons in total in the Dinokeng Game Reserve, near Pretoria. So, snakes are kind parents? It seems that the cold-blooded animals they are doing are doing very well.