FEEL­ING THE HEAT

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild News -

Bi­ol­o­gists have dis­cov­ered the first known ex­am­ple of an egg-laying snake pro­vid­ing care for its hatch­lings.

After laying their eggs in the bur­row of an aard­vark, fe­male South­ern African pythons stay around to de­fend them and keep them warm – not easy for a cold-blooded an­i­mal.

“Our pythons bask near to the bur­row en­trance un­til their body tem­per­a­ture is al­most 40°C – within a few de­grees of lethal tem­per­a­tures,” says Gra­ham Alexan­der of South Africa’s Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand. “They then coil around the eggs to warm them.”

Breed­ing fe­males even turn black, in or­der to ab­sorb more heat from the sun, and this care con­tin­ues for weeks after the eggs have hatched.

The whole breed­ing cy­cle takes about six months, dur­ing which the fe­males do not eat and lose 40 per cent of their body mass.

“They take a long time to re­cover,” says Alexan­der. “Some of them never do.”

Cold-blooded pythons can be pro­tec­tive par­ents.

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