Scientists Discover Burmese Pythons Have Homing Abilities

Posted on March 21, 2014

A new study has found that Burmese pythons in South Florida can find their way home even when they are moved far away from their capture locations. In the study, six Burmese pythons were relocated 13 to 22 miles from their capture locations. All snakes headed straight back home after being released and navigated to within three miles of their original capture locations in Everglades National Park.

Lead study author Shannon Pittman, a post-doctoral fellow in the lab of Professor of Biology Mike Dorcas at Davidson College, says in a statement, "What we found was an ability of these snakes to travel in straight paths all the way back to their point of capture."

The multi-organizational team of scientists also found that the relocated snakes moved faster and straighter than snakes that were not relocated. The researchers say this means the pythons have navigational map and compass senses. They also found the snakes appeared to use local cues from their release site to determine their position relative to home.

Pittman says, "The snakes maintained their oriented movement over the course of a relatively long time, between 94 and 296 days. This indicates that not only do pythons keep their long-term movement goal in mind, but also that they were highly motivated to get back home."

Frank Mazzotti, a professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Florida, says this is the first time the homing behavior has been seen in snakes. Mazzotti says the snakes probably want to return to where they were captured because they had already found food and water in these areas. Take a look:

The research paper, "Homing of invasive Burmese pythons in South Florida: evidence for map and compass senses in snakes," was published here in Biology Letters.

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