A 62-year-old ball python surprised experts at the St. Louis Zoo by laying seven eggs, despite not being near a male python for at least two decades. Mark Wanner, manager of herpetology at the zoo, says it's unusual but not unheard of for ball pythons to reproduce asexually. The snakes also sometimes store sperm for delayed fertilization, per the AP. The birth also is unusual because ball pythons usually stop laying eggs long before they reach their 60s, Wanner says. "She'd definitely be the oldest snake we know of in history" to lay eggs, Wanner says. The python, which hasn't been given a name, laid the eggs on July 23. Three of the eggs remain in an incubator, two were culled for genetic sampling, and snakes in the other two eggs didn't survive, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
The eggs that survive should hatch in about a month. The genetic sampling, meanwhile, will show whether the eggs were reproduced sexually or asexually, a process called facultative parthenogenesis. The only other ball python in the zoo's herpetarium is a male that's about 31 years old. The snakes aren't on public view. A private owner gave the female to the zoo in 1961. She laid a clutch of eggs in 2009 that didn't survive. Another clutch emerged in 1990, but those eggs might have been conceived with the male because at the time, the snakes were put in buckets together while keepers cleaned their cages.
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