ST. LOUIS — Despite her age and the fact that it’s been 15 years since a male python has been near her, a 62-year-old female python recently laid 7 eggs at the St. Louis Zoo.
The unnamed female ball python released the eggs July 23, the zoo said.
On 7/23, something incredible happened at the Herpetarium — a ball python laid eggs! This particular female snake is over 50 years old (the oldest snake documented in a Zoo) & has not been with a male in over 15 years!
— Saint Louis Zoo (@stlzoo) September 8, 2020
“She’d definitely be the oldest snake we know of in history (to lay eggs),” Mark Wanner, a zoological manager of herpetology at the zoo, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She is also the oldest snake documented in a zoo.
She does not have a name. Her number is 361003, according to the Post-Dispatch. She was brought to the zoo in 1961 by a private owner and believed to be about 3 years old at the time. Snakes in captivity typically have a 20-year lifespan, according to the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.
The St. Louis Zoo has a 31-year-old male ball python as well. The snakes are not on public view and have been separated for years.
Ball pythons are native to central and western Africa. They are known to reproduce both sexually and asexually and typically start to lay eggs when they are around 4 years old. They are also known to store sperm for fertilization. Zoo staff are unsure how she was impregnated and are sending samples for genetic testing to determine.
She last laid eggs in 2009, but they did not survive. She also laid a clutch of eggs in 1990, which could have been conceived with the male snake.
From the current clutch, three of the eggs are in an incubator at the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium. Two of the eggs were used for genetic sampling and snakes inside the other two eggs did not survive. It will take about a month for the surviving eggs to hatch.