New Species Invades the South

 

            Mounting evidence has some local herpetologists  concerned that the southern states of North America are being invaded by a new species of giant snake.  Recently given the name Eunectes firestoneia by Dr. Uno Abril of the University of Tennessee, this newly described member of the Boa family appears to be a close relative of the Amazon Anaconda.  The genus name, Eunectes, translated from the Greek means “good swimmer,” and indeed the Anaconda is the most aquatic of all the Boas. 

            A recent rash of sightings all over the south have involved the sudden appearance of shed skins, especially along roadways close to bridges spanning rivers and streams.  Dr. Abril surmises that the huge serpents, upon feeling the urge to molt, go looking for hard boulders or rocks upon which to rub and scrape their shedding skin.  There not being much of that type of natural geology here in the Mississippi flood plain, the desperate snakes wind up climbing up concrete bridge buttresses and using the rough concrete and asphalt surfaces of the roadway to peel-off their old skin.

            Though as yet no complete specimens, living or dead have been verified, Dr. Abril feels that he has extracted enough DNA from the shed skins to begin a workable assay.  “This would be proof positive,” he says, “that we have a real problem on our hands.”  Though their predominate color is black, their shed skins (see photo) often show variable patterns of zig-zag lines running parallel to the longitudinal plane of their bodies.

The skin of this medium-sized specimen is typical (about 8 feet), but because it is only a partial molt (missing the tail below the anal plate and entire head section), the overall length of this snake was probably close to 12 feet!  Still not worried?  Then what about this?  Some skins have been found near old construction sites and gravel pits that suggest some of these monsters are reaching lengths of 20 feet or more!

            When asked what such large snakes might be feeding on, Dr. Abril suggested that because of their aquatic and nocturnal nature, muskrats and beavers would certainly be prime prey items, especially since in the jungles of the Amazon Anacondas pursue the largest rodent of them all, the capybara. 

            When asked where did it come from, Dr. Abril could only shrug and say, “Who knows?  It is definitely a tropical, sub-tropical species.  Perhaps with recent climatic trends involving global warming, this species has migrated northward, crossed the Panamanian Isthmus, the Caribbean  and followed the Mississippi Valley to here.”   He goes on to say, “and I’m afraid, if that’s the case, then it’s here to stay.  You know, not too long ago we extirpated all the natural large predators that used to roam this area, and since Nature abhors a vacuum, maybe Eunectes firestoneia  is their replacement?”

 

 

Dr. Abril attempts to extract DNA from a single scale taken from the ventral scutes.  Notice the intricate reticulations running the length of the dorsal surface.  In the jar to right of the microscope is a 4 foot Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) dwarfed by the Anaconda skin.

 

Dr. Abril with specimen in his laboratory prior to running a DNA electrophoresis profile

 

Dr. Abril with an 8 foot section of snake skin collected from the shoulder of highway 51 near the Forked Deer River

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Abril and assistant measure the length of the shed skin