In the lab, researchers tested how long hatchling pythons could survive with only salt water to drink. They found that, when given access only to water with salinity levels equivalent to full marine water, hatchling pythons straight out of their eggs lived about a month. At salinity levels comparable with estuaries, the hatchlings survived about five months.
The USGS research demonstrated, however, that varying salinity levels did affect the snakes, as reflected in significant survival differences between pythons exposed to freshwater, marine, and estuarine salinities in the lab. However, because hatchlings are considered the most vulnerable stage of the python's life, it's likely that adult snakes could persist even longer in saltwater environments, Hart and her colleagues noted.
By comparison, pythons in the study displayed a saltwater tolerance level near that of the native mangrove snake, a salinity-tolerant native snake found in high-salinity environments in and around the Everglades.
Although the study didn't account for the effect that access to food in saltwater environments would have on survival, lab conditions were designed to provide a conservative estimate of snake tolerance to salinity, by not allowing for the possibility that snakes could access freshwater from rain.
|Contact: Rachel Pawlitz|
United States Geological Survey