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Burmese Pythons in Florida and Louisiana Essay

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Updated: Apr 9th, 2020

Burmese pythons are not native to Florida; they began appearing in the state over the span of the last few decades, mostly in south Florida, in Everglades National Park (Walsh par. 1). They are probably released pets or their descendants (Walsh par. 1); it is reported that approximately 17,000 representatives of the species were brought to the USA during 1970-1995, and nearly 99,000–during 1970-1995 (Harvey et al. par. 1).

According to Noonan and Chippindale, no snakes of the subfamilies Erycinae and Boinae of the genus Boidae currently inhabit Florida (see Fig. 1) (348). On the other hand, Holman points out that fossils of “three kinds” of Boidae were found in Florida; fossils are assigned to Coniophis cosgriffi by Armstrong-Ziegler (qtd. in Holman 34) or simply to Boidae without indicating any lower taxonomic groups membership by Estes et al. and Rage (qtd. in Holman 34), and dated as originating from Early Oligocene to Late Cretaceous periods (Holman 34).

Geographic distribution of the Boidae
Figure 1. Geographic distribution of the Boidae (Erycinae + Boinae). Abbreviations indicate the following clades: NT–Neotropical; A–African; PI–Pacific Island; N–North American; C–Central American; A/I–Afro-Indian (Noonan and Chippindale 348).

Why Do Burmese Pythons Cause a Decline in Number of Mammals in South Florida?

According to Harvey et al., Burmese pythons are an invasive species, i.e. one that does not face natural limitations similar to those existing in their original habitat, and therefore is probable to cause harm to its new dwelling (Harvey et al. par. 2). The exact size of their population is unknown, but is estimated “to number in the thousands” (Harvey et al. par. 3).

According to Harvey et al., Burmese pythons are predators with “broad dietary preferences” (par. 4). Besides, remains of “fourteen species of mammals, five species of birds, and one species of reptile” have been found during necropsy of these snakes in Florida; some of these species currently have a poor conservation status (Harvey et al. par. 22). The given data allows to conclude that Burmese pythons are (at least partially) responsible for the decline of the population of mammals in south Florida.

Mental Experiment: Burmese Pythons in Louisiana and the Loss of Wetland

It is stated that one of the causes of wetland loss in Louisiana is invasive species such as nutria that destroy “thousands of acres of wetlands”; the problem is estimated to be very severe (“Louisiana’s Disappearing Wetlands” par. 15). Therefore, if the Burmese python, a predator of mammals and a good swimmer, spreads to Louisiana, it could slow down the rate of wetland loss by devouring nutrias (and other mammals) that are harmful to the terrain.

Methods Used in Invasion Biology

Invasion biologists use various scientific methods to evaluate the processes and phenomena of the natural world. The way invasions occur are often researched by analyzing attributes of the species involved or ecosystems invaded, scrutinizing the connection between them, or temporally distinguishing the components of the process of invasion (Heger and Trepl 313).

The methods of invasion biology include, but are not limited to, mathematical methods, such as statistics and mathematical modeling (e.g. level set methods can be used to model biological invasions in various landscapes (Basse and Plank 158-162)); methods of molecular biology, e.g. DNA-based methods (Darling and Mahon 979); and many others.

The module we have studied has increased our understanding of the scientific process by demonstrating how e.g. the connection of invasive species to their new ecosystem, the way these species invade their new habitat and influence it, etc., is researched.

Works Cited

Basse, Britta, and Michael Plank. “Modelling Biological Invasions over Homogeneous and Inhomogeneous Landscapes using Level Set Methods.” Biological Invasions 10.2 (2008): 157-167. ProQuest.

Darling, John A., and Andrew R. Mahon. “From Molecules to Management: Adopting DNA-Based Methods for Monitoring Biological Invasions in Aquatic Environments”. Environmental Research 111.7 (2011): 978-988. Elsevier.

Harvey, Rebecca G., Matthew L. Brien, Michael S. Cherkiss, Michael Dorcas, Mike Rochford, Ray W. Snow, and Frank J. Mazzotti. Burmese Pythons in South Florida: Scientific Support for Invasive Species Management. May 2008.

Heger, Tina, and Ludwig Trepl. “Predicting Biological Invasions.” Biological Invasions 5.4 (2003): 313-21. ProQuest.

Holman, J. Alan. Fossil Snakes of North America: Origin, Evolution, Distribution, Paleoecology, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2000. Print.

. n.d.

Noonan, Brice P., and Paul T. Chippindale. “Dispersal and Vicariance: The Complex Evolutionary History of Boid Snakes.” Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 40.2 (2006): 347-358. ScienceDirect.

Walsh, B. . 2015.

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