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Flow of Energy

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Cold Blooded Invasion
Teacher Contributed

Cold Blooded Invasion

Why It Matters

Bobby, Where's Your Pet Snake?

Some people are reptile enthusiasts and think they make wonderful pets. For some people this means owning dozens of reptiles, for others just a few, and for some the attraction grows cold, and then there can be problems. But before we get into that why don't you find out some more about snakes.

Now that you know a little about snakes, find out some information about the Florida Everglades by watching a video at this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXw78fViHww

At last, find out what can happen when people's hobbies get away from them.

But the Burmese pythons are affecting far more than birds. Read this report from the US Geological Survey and find out how mammals are being affected. http://www.usgs.gov/blogs/features/usgs_top_story/the-big-squeeze-pythons-and-mammals-in-everglades-national-park/

And since seeing is believing, take a look at this video. Does this look like a "small" mammal to you?

It should be noted that over six exotic species of invasive snakes have been found in the Florida Everglades, but to date, the pythons are the only ones to establish a breeding population. This underscores the findings of scientists that far more species get introduced to new ecosystems than successfully invade them. This in no way changes the fact that when they are successful, invasive species can have a major impact on ecosystems. Just ask any bird lover on Guam what they think of the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis).

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Use the resources below to answer the following questions:

  1. How much less energy does a cold blooded snake need compared to a warm blooded mammal of the same size?
  2. How do pythons breathe while they are swallowing prey? How would pythons be limited in the size of prey they could consume if this were not possible?
  3. What caused a major reduction in the size of the Florida Everglades in the 1950s?
  4. How have birds responded to the presence of the Burmese python?
  5. Where in the Everglades have the largest declines in mammals been seen? How does this location support Burmese pythons being the cause?
  6. Burmese pythons are dietary generalists which means they will prey on a variety of species. What problems do you think a dietary specialist invading a new area would face that a generalist would not?
  7. Pythons are mainly arboreal (living in trees) when they are young to avoid the large adults which will eat them. Why does this life history trait of the pythons make the situation even worse?

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