Native to southeastern Asia, the Burmese, python, Python bivittatus, has certainly earned quite the reputation in south Florida. Though this species was recorded in Everglades National Park as far back in the 1980s, their real growth and expansion followed Hurricane Andrew in 1992. By the year 2000, they were classified as established and reproducing. Today, the Burmese python serves as a significant ecological burden and risk to native wildlife — including native reptiles and mammals.
In their native range, Burmese pythons average around twelve feet in length. In Florida, however, adults only average between six and nine feet in length, or so. The record in Florida is 17 feet. Impressive. Though they are non-venomous, the size and strength of the Burmese python, along with their adaptability and hardiness, poses a unique and significant ecological challenge to Florida’s native eco-matrix. Attempts to eradicate the species from south Florida have thus far been somewhat fruitless. Though countless individuals have been collected and “expired” (if you will), the sheer vastness and difficulty of the Everglades ecosystems certainly provide the Burmese pythons with innumerable advantages. I’m afraid the burden will be on native organisms to adapt to their new competitor. I’m not sure there’s anything people can do to eradicate the species at this point.
Burmese pythons can be considered semi-aquatic. They are often found near bodies of water (which the Everglades has plenty of) and prey on mammals and large reptiles (which the Everglades used to have more of). They are also exceedingly excellent at hiding in otherwise plain sight. You could easily walk right past a seven foot python adjacent to US 41 without ever realizing it’s hiding a few short feet away. Most individuals that have been collected or photographed were somewhat close to roads and pathways. If you look at a map of the Everglades system, you’ll realize roads are rare and sparse in that region… I can’t even imagine how many Burms live out a full life without ever making contact with a person.
The individual featured on this post is a youngster found crossing a road. Even as juveniles, Burmese pythons are impressive and quite able to compete with Florida’s native wildlife.
If you’d like to learn more about Burmese pythons in Florida (and what to do if you encounter one), check out the FWC’s Burmese Python page.
This isn’t really “wildlife” related, but it’s more than worth sharing and noting (and shouting):
If you don’t know Maria Bamford, you really aren’t doing this life thing correctly. Click that link and head over!
Cope’s gray treefrog, Hyla chrysoscelis, is one of Florida’s numerous Hyla treefrog species. It is not, however, one of the species we typically have in my home county of Volusia. We’re not too far out of range, and anything’s possible, but this is not a species I’ve encountered in Volusia county just yet… All the more reason to head west and a bit north up the peninsula, right?
I was fortunate to find and photograph an array of Cope’s gray treefrogs in Gilchrist county back in April of 2014. The species is quite diverse in its visual patterning, and I managed to photograph a wide range of patterns. This individual, the first of these Gilchrist county Cope’s gray treefrog to be posted on Floridensis in due time, was quite distinctive and bold in its patterning. Check out the contrasts on that pattern. Awesome.
We’ll see plenty more of these frogs on Floridensis in due time.
With a wingspan ranging between three and seven inches across, it’s hard to miss an adult Imperial moth, Eacles imperialis, bunkered down on the back of your house. It’s a pretty hefty and colorful moth by North American standards. Fortunately for me, it’s also a species that tends to show up at our home quite a bit. I never get tired of seeing this massive moth resting on our house.
Ranging throughout much of the eastern portion of the United States, the Pearly wood nymph, Eudryas unio, is a member of Family Noctuidae (the Owlets and Miller Moths). I photographed this individual bunkered down for the day in Flagler county. It’s certainly a simple and elegantly folded moth. Check out the scalloped trim on the edges of those wings. Remarkable, right?
Not all marine gastropod mollusks live in shells, and this is certainly the case with the Sargassum nudibranch, Scyllaea pelagica. A member of Order Nudibranch, generally referred to as “sea slugs,” this species hitchhikes along with floating and buoyant Sargassum weed (a heterokont, not a plant). Sometimes it will linger about with weeds rooted down below, but it’s most frequently floating about the currents along with Sargassum — with which it is beautifully camouflaged. Sometimes, that Sargassum will wash ashore, carrying with it the nudibranch. Reaching lengths upwards to four inches or so, it’s easy to miss spotting this species tucked in the Sargassum. The camouflage truly is quite impressive.
People love to collect shells at the beach. As a kid growing up in Ormond Beach, Florida, I was no different. With time, however, I became more interested in the things that build and live within those shells… I became quite interested in our coastal, marine mollusks — the bivalves and the gastropods. I soon realized, however, that the variety of marine mollusks in our area is intimidating and enthralling. With that in mind, let’s just focus on one individual of one species.
Featured here is a Shark eye sea snail, Neverita duplicata, a small gastropod mollusk reaching up to about 3-3.5 inches in shell length. This species of sea snail is predatory; it actively hunts for bivalve mollusks near the low tide line. If you want to find living sea snails on the beach, check the sand in the shallow surf the hour wrapping around the low tide mark. They can sometimes be quite abundant along the shorelines of Volusia county, Florida. Though their shape may not be particularly enthralling, I do find the subtle color plays of both the shell and the snail itself to be absolutely gorgeous.