What’s scarier than a snake? A snake with bloodsucking parasitic worms living in their bodies that could spread to the entire country of course. This is what is going on in Florida, which is quickly becoming the United States’ own little Australia with enormous dinosaur-like birds killing people and 17-foot-long Burmese pythons laying 73 eggs.
For the first time ever in Florida, scientists have found multiple rattlesnakes dead from having parasitic worms living inside of them. The first death of a pygmy rattlesnake from worms known as pentastome parasites was discovered last year by Dr. Terence Farral, a biology professor at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida.
“Dr. Lind and I have been studying pygmy rattlesnakes for decades and found this occurrence pretty alarming,” Dr. Farrell said in the press release. “We conducted research and found that these types of parasites have never been found in pygmy rattlesnakes before.”
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The first rattlesnake had live parasitic worms oozing out of the dead snake’s mouth. I hope you're not eating lunch right now.
Video shows that the pentastome parasites attached themselves to the serpent’s respiratory systems, including their lung and trachea areas. Enjoy the worm extraction cam!
Dr. Farral and his students tested three more pygmy rattlesnakes from the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge in DeLeon Springs, Florida, and found the same parasites in each one. For those of you who are not fond of slithering creatures, this is like a Sophie’s Choice of which animal you want to haunt you.
“The parasites that were found in the pygmy rattlesnakes were larger than the ones found in Burmese pythons,” Farrell said. “It’s a nasty situation because the pygmy rattlesnakes haven’t evolved or developed defenses against the parasite.”
The reason for the unprecedented appearance of parasitic worms in rattlesnakes could be because of Burmese pythons. The parasites are originally from southeast Asia, which is where they live off of Burmese pythons. In recent years, Burmese pythons have been brought by humans to south Florida and they have thrived there. So much so that the South Florida Water Management had to start a Python Elimination Program. The group has collected 1,859 Burmese pythons. Nature, you scary.
The Burmese pythons are an invasive species in south Florida and causing ecological harm because native wildlife is not prepared to deal with these predators. Oddly, these bloodsucking worms were found in central Florida, over 100 miles from where Burmese pythons dominate. The scientists believe that the parasitic worms are “hitching rides” in host animals and could spread to other states. Build a wall on Florida’s border.
“The research tells us that there’s a whole new concern about invasive species and the diseases and parasites that they bring with them,” said Farrell. “This parasite isn’t just a Florida problem. We have no idea how much of the U.S. this parasite will spread and move into, which may cause it to become a nationwide problem in a few years.”
The Stetson University researchers published their findings in Herpetological Review in March.