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Ball python at the Saint Louis Zoo lays eggs even though she hasn’t been with a man in years



The ball python, which has been at the zoo since 1961, laid seven eggs on July 23, Mark Wanner, the zoological manager for herpetology, told CNN.

“It was a surprise. We honestly didn’t expect her to drop a few more eggs,” he said.

The zookeepers had previously noticed some changes to the snake, but Wanner said they were subtle.

The snake has no name, but is identified by the number 361003 according to the zoo. She should be at least 62 years old.

Giant panda gives birth at the National Zoo

Ball pythons are native to central and west Africa and can reproduce asexually in what is known as facultative parthenogenesis, according to the zoo. Wanner said Komodo dragons and some other snakes and reptiles also reproduce asexually.

Women can also save sperm for delayed fertilization, but Wanner said the longest documented case they found of it was seven years after contact.

She clutched another egg in 2009, but none of those eggs hatched and there is no record of her dating a man.

Wanner said she could have been with a man in the late 1980s and early 1990s because zookeepers put snakes together in buckets while cleaning their cages.

“We say more than 15 years, but I mean, it’s probably a little closer to 30 years since she’s been with a man physically,” he said.

Scientists will do genetic tests on two eggs.

Warner said they took two of the eggs for genetic testing to see if the eggs were reproducing sexually or asexually. Two more eggs have died and the remaining three will be incubated.

He said they hope to get the test results back in about a month.

“We can’t wait for the samples we tested to actually get this information as it kills hearsay or whatever we might or might not be thinking,” he said.

Wanner said the eggs were roughly in the middle of their incubation.

“If they keep living and developing, we expect them to hatch in the next two to three weeks,” he said. “We keep our fingers crossed that one of these animals will hatch, but we don’t know for sure.”


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