A genetic study has found a new and dangerous possibility lurking in the DNA of Florida's invasive pythons. Per the Miami Herald, researchers from the US Geological Survey tested hundreds of the Everglades' already worryingly prolific giant snake species and what they found could mean an even hardier invader down the line. Where they expected to find nothing but DNA from the water-loving ancestors of carelessly released pet Burmese pythons, scientists discovered that at least 13 of 400 snakes tested showed signs of hybridization with a relative known as the Indian rock python. Unlike the Burmese, the rock python prefers to live on higher drier ground. It's also faster and smaller.
Per the Guardian, this tells researchers that floating somewhere in the gene pool of Florida's estimated 150,000 pythons could be a mix of genes that could lead to a "super snake" with the ability to adapt even better to subtropical conditions in a Florida ecosystem already overrun with exotic and damaging invasives. Because researchers can't tell from their 400 snakes exactly how many of the Sunshine State's pythons are hybrids, they can't say for sure whether the added Indian rock python traits could one day make the population more adaptable to larger swaths of Florida and beyond. (Read more Florida stories.)