Experts at a US zoo are trying to figure out how a 62-year-old royal python laid seven eggs when it hasn’t been near a male python for at least two decades.
Three of the snake eggs from the St Louis Zoo remain in an incubator, two were used for DNA sampling and the snakes from the other two eggs did not survive, the St Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The eggs were laid on July 23 and are expected to hatch in about a month.
Mark Wanner, director of herpetology at the Missouri Zoo, said it was unusual but not uncommon for bullet pythons to reproduce asexually. Snakes also sometimes store sperm for delayed fertilization.
Genetic sampling will show whether the eggs have been reproduced sexually or asexually, called facultative parthenogenesis.
The only other royal python in the zoo’s herpetarium is a male around 31 years old. Snakes are not in public view.
The female snake – known as 361003 only – in 1990 laid a clutch of eggs that could have been conceived with the male because at the time the snakes were put in buckets while their cages were cleaned.
Birth is also unusual because ball pythons typically stop laying eggs long before they reach their 60s, Wanner said.
“She would definitely be the oldest snake we know of in history,” to lay eggs, Wanner said, noting that she is the oldest snake ever documented in a zoo. A private owner gave the female to the zoo in 1961.