In a laboratory setting, we tested the ability of 24 non-native, wild-caught hatchling Burmese pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) collected in the Florida Everglades to survive when given water containing salt to drink. After a one-month acclimation period in the laboratory, we grouped snakes into three treatments, giving them access to water that was fresh (salinity of 0, control), brackish (salinity of 10), or full-strength sea water (salinity of 35). Hatchlings survived about one month at the highest marine salinity and about five months at the brackish-water salinity; no control animals perished during the experiment. These results are indicative of a "worst-case scenario", as in the laboratory we denied access to alternate fresh-water sources that may be accessible in the wild (e.g., through rainfall). Therefore, our results may underestimate the potential of hatchling pythons to persist in saline habitats in the wild. Because of the effect of different salinity regimes on survival, predictions of ultimate geographic expansion by non-native Burmese pythons that consider salt water as barriers to dispersal for pythons may warrant re-evaluation, especially under global climate change and associated sea-level-rise scenarios.
|Title||Experimentally derived salinity tolerance of hatchling Burmese pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) from the Everglades, Florida (USA)|
|Authors||Kristen M. Hart, Pamela J. Schofield, Denise R. Gregoire|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Southeast Ecological Science Center|