A new study has those who are squeamish seriously freaked out. The study revealed just how wide pythons can stretch their jaws.
The study focuses on Burmese pythons, which can grow up to 16 feet long. Science Alert states that while in their native area, Southeast Asia, they are usually vulnerable. However, after being introduced to Florida, they have no predators, eat a lot, and are damaging the ecosystem.
Ian Bartoszek, an environmental scientist for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, spoke to University of Cincinnati about this.
“The Everglades ecosystem is changing in real-time based on one species, the Burmese python,” Bartoszek said.
Burmese pythons have evolved in a way that allows them to swallow prey up to six times what other snakes can. UC College of Arts and Sciences professor Bruce Jayne shared that the snakes have “super stretchy” skin beneath their jaws, allowing them to eat the bigger prey.
“The stretchy skin between left and right lower jaws is radically different in pythons. Just over 40% of their total gape area on average is from stretchy skin,” Jayne said. “Even after you correct for their large heads, their gape is enormous.”
He also shared more of what he discovered about baby pythons.
“A bigger baby has a wider variety of prey it can consume. By being big, snakes can exploit a wider variety of prey than smaller snakes,” Jayne said.
A chilling fact is that once the pythons are fully grown, the only thing that can eat them is an alligator — which is another animal that pythons eat.
Bartoszek also has a photo of a Burmese python throwing up a fully grown white-tailed deer.
Study Reveals Nauseating Python Facts
“Some things you can’t unsee on this python project,” he said. “Last season, we removed one snake that weighed 215 pounds.”
Because of their ability to eat pretty much anything, the pythons have a huge effect on the Florida ecosystem.
“The Everglades ecosystem is changing in real time based on one species, the Burmese python,” he said.
Scientists are hoping to figure out how they are influencing the food chain.
“It’s not going to help to control them,” Jayne said. “But it can help us understand the impact of invasive species. If you know how big the snakes get and how long it takes for them to get that size, you can place a rough upper limit on what resources the snake could be expected to exploit.”
Although the facts they uncovered may seem scary, there isn’t a huge need to be freaked out. Just because they can fit some things into their mouth doesn’t necessarily mean that they will — in fact, they rarely attack people.