Bloodsucking worms in pythons killing Florida snakes, could spread to other states
MELBOURNE, Fla. - Reports say Burmese pythons in Florida are indirectly killing native snakes.
USA Today reports that researchers at Stetson University discovered a parasitic worm, spread by the invasive pythons, is killing native Florida pygmy snakes. The worms were found in Central Florida, more than 100 miles away from where Burmese pythons have been reported in the southern part of the state.
Even though the worms were found in the northern part of the state, that doesn't mean there are pythons there, according to a recent study. Researchers say the parasites traveled so far by hitching riders in reptiles and other host animals that Florida snakes eat. Officials say there is a risk of the worms spreading to other states.
"At this point, they are moving very rapidly. They are certainly in Brevard County," said Terence Farrell, a biologist at Stetson University. "It's conceivable they will spread throughout the whole United States."
While dissecting three pygmy rattlesnakes, researches found the parasites in the lungs and tracheas of the animals. One of the worms was reportedly as wide as the snake's trachea and could have obstructed the snake's airway.
Researchers say the bloodsucking parades aren't thought to be a health risk to humans.
These findings were published in the Herpetological Review.