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Assessing the Impacts of Pythons in the Greater Everglades: Examination of Diet and Thermal Biology of Python molurus bivittatus

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Metadata:


Identification_Information:
Citation:
Citation_Information:
Originator: Kristen Hart, Frank J. Mazzotti, Mchael E. Dorcas, Skip Snow
Publication_Date: 2010
Title:
Assessing the Impacts of Pythons in the Greater Everglades: Examination of Diet and Thermal Biology of Python molurus bivittatus
Geospatial_Data_Presentation_Form: maps and data
Online_Linkage:
https://sofia.usgs.gov/projects/index.php?project_url=dietbio_pythons
Description:
Abstract:
The Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus), a native to Southeast Asia, can reach a length greater than twenty feet (Wall 1921, Pope 1961). This python is a long lived (15 - 25 years) behavioral, habitat, and dietary generalist, capable of producing large clutches of eggs (8 - 107) (Lederer 1956, Branch and Erasmus 1984). Observations of Burmese pythons exist in the United States primarily from locations within Everglades National Park (ENP), including; along the Main Park Road in the saline and freshwater glades, and mangroves, between Pay-hay-okee and Flamingo, the greater Long Pine Key area (including Hole-in-the-Donut), and the greater Shark Valley area along the Tamiami Trail (including L-67 Ext.). The non-native species has also been observed repeatedly on the eastern boundary of ENP, along canal levees, in the remote mangrove backcountry, and in Big Cypress National Preserve. From 2002 (when the numbers first began to climb) to 2005, 201 pythons were captured and removed or found dead. In 2006-2007 alone, that number more than doubled to 418. Measured total length for snakes recovered ranged from 0.5 m to 4.5 m including five hatchling-sized animals recovered in the summer of 2004, and two hatchlings captured in 2005. In 2008, 343 pythons were removed, and so far in 2009, 347 individuals have been removed.

The non-native semi-aquatic pythons's diet in southern Florida includes raccoon, rabbit, muskrat, squirrel, opossum, cotton rat, black rat, bobcat, house wren, pied-billed grebe, white ibis, limpkin, alligator and endangered Key Largo wood rat. As Python molurus is known to eat birds, and also known to frequent wading bird colonies in their native range, the proximity of python sightings to the Paurotis Pond and Tamiami West wood stork rookeries is troubling. The potential for pythons to eat Mangrove Fox Squirrels and Cape Sable Seaside Sparrows and to compete with Indigos Snakes is also of concern.

Burmese Pythons present a potential threat to successful ecological restoration of the greater Everglades (NRC 2005). Pythons are now established and breeding in South Florida. Python molurus bivittatus has the potential to occupy the entire footprint of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP), adversely impacting valued resources across the landscape. Proposed management and control actions must include research strategies and further evaluation of potential impacts of pythons.

The results of this project will be applied to develop a comprehensive, science-based control and containment program. The proposed project will also increase our understanding of the impacts of Burmese pythons on native fauna in DOI and surrounding lands. Dealing with established exotic species requires that we understand their status and impacts, and how to remove them. A current priority item for determining status is finding out the extent of invasion by established species. Once we know where the threat is occurring, we need a better understanding of how the threat may manifest itself ecologically-that is, what are the impacts of invasion? We can hypothesize that Burmese pythons compete with native snakes or affect populations of prey species; however, knowing with certainty that pythons eat wood rats, for example, better focuses eradication efforts and spurs action. A study of diet of Burmese pythons directly addresses this issue. Further, knowing how much pythons eat through a bioenergetic model allows us to forecast with more certainty predation impacts on native fauna.
Purpose:
Project objectives:
-Provide science support to evaluate impacts of pythons on native biological diversity. To this end, we will determine the diet of Burmese pythons removed from Everglades National Park in 2008 and 2009.
-To evaluate the impacts of pythons on native biological diversity and development of control measures for Burmese pythons, we must monitor temperature of pythons which serves as a proxy for activity levels.
-Synthesize what is known with the new information provided in above objectives to develop a preliminary conceptual bioenergetic model for Burmese pythons.
-Use resulting data to develop a better understanding of python activity and microhabitat use. Such data will allow better predictions of when animals are exposed and visible, and thus available for capture and removal
Time_Period_of_Content:
Time_Period_Information:
Range_of_Dates/Times:
Beginning_Date: 2008
Ending_Date: 2010
Currentness_Reference: ground condition
Status:
Progress: Complete
Maintenance_and_Update_Frequency: Unknown
Spatial_Domain:
Description_of_Geographic_Extent:
Southern Florida, Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge, John Pennycamp State Park (Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Collier Counties)
Bounding_Coordinates:
West_Bounding_Coordinate: -81.5
East_Bounding_Coordinate: -80.3
North_Bounding_Coordinate: 29.25
South_Bounding_Coordinate: 25.1
Keywords:
Theme:
Theme_Keyword_Thesaurus: None
Theme_Keyword: diet
Theme_Keyword: thermal biology
Theme_Keyword: invasive species
Theme_Keyword: bioenergetic model
Theme_Keyword: wildlife management
Theme_Keyword: Burmese python
Theme:
Theme_Keyword_Thesaurus: ISO 19115 Topic Category
Theme_Keyword: biota
Theme_Keyword: environment
Place:
Place_Keyword_Thesaurus: non
Place_Keyword: Everglades National Park
Place_Keyword: Big Cypress National Preserve
Place_Keyword: Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Place_Keyword: John Pennycamp State Park
Place_Keyword: Florida
Taxonomy:
Keywords/Taxon:
Taxonomic_Keyword_Thesaurus: None
Taxonomic_Keywords: reptiles
Taxonomic_Classification:
Taxon_Rank_Name: Kingdom
Taxon_Rank_Value: Animalia
Taxonomic_Classification:
Taxon_Rank_Name: Phylum
Taxon_Rank_Value: Chordata
Taxonomic_Classification:
Taxon_Rank_Name: Class
Taxon_Rank_Value: Reptilia
Taxonomic_Classification:
Taxon_Rank_Name: Order
Taxon_Rank_Value: Squamata
Taxonomic_Classification:
Taxon_Rank_Name: Family
Taxon_Rank_Value: Pythonidae
Taxonomic_Classification:
Taxon_Rank_Name: Genus
Taxon_Rank_Value: Python
Taxonomic_Classification:
Taxon_Rank_Name: Species
Taxon_Rank_Value: Python molurus
Taxonomic_Classification:
Taxon_Rank_Name: Subspecies
Taxon_Rank_Value: Python molurus bivittatus
Access_Constraints: None
Use_Constraints:
Cite primary authors and database when using or publishing these data
Point_of_Contact:
Contact_Information:
Contact_Person_Primary:
Contact_Person: Kristen Hart
Contact_Organization: U.S Geological Survey
Contact_Address:
Address_Type: mailing and physical
Address: Florida Integrated Science Center - Davie Field Office
Address: 3205 College Avenue
City: Davie
State_or_Province: FL
Postal_Code: 33314
Country: USA
Contact_Voice_Telephone: 954-577-6335
Contact_Facsimile_Telephone: 954-475-4125
Contact_Electronic_Mail_Address: kristen_hart@usgs.gov
Data_Set_Credit: Mike Rochford, Michael Cherkiss
Cross_Reference:
Citation_Information:
Originator: Branch, W.R. and H. Erasmus
Publication_Date: 1984
Title:
Captive breeding of pythons in South Africa, including details of an interspecific hybrid (Python sebae natalensis x Python molurus bivittatus)
Geospatial_Data_Presentation_Form: publication
Series_Information:
Series_Name: Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa
Issue_Identification: 30:1-10
Cross_Reference:
Citation_Information:
Originator: Colvin, B.A., Fall, M.W., Fitzgerald, L.A. and L.L. Loope
Publication_Date: 2005
Title:
Review of Brown Treesnake problems and control programs: Report of observations and recommendations
Geospatial_Data_Presentation_Form: publication
Other_Citation_Details: Report to Office of Insular Affairs, Honolulu, Hawaii
Cross_Reference:
Citation_Information:
Originator: Lederer, G.
Publication_Date: 1996
Title:
Fortpflanzungsbiologie und Entwicklung von Python molurus molurus (Linne) und Python molurus bivittatus (Kuhl).
Geospatial_Data_Presentation_Form: publication
Series_Information:
Series_Name: Die Aquarien- Und Terrarien-Zeitschrift
Issue_Identification: 9:243-248
Cross_Reference:
Citation_Information:
Originator: National Research Council
Publication_Date: 2005
Title:
Re-engineering storage in the Everglades: Risks and Opportunities
Geospatial_Data_Presentation_Form: publication
Publication_Information:
Publication_Place: Washington, DC
Publisher: National Academies Press
Cross_Reference:
Citation_Information:
Originator: Pope, C.H.
Publication_Date: 1961
Title: The giant snakes
Geospatial_Data_Presentation_Form: publication
Publication_Information:
Publication_Place: New York
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Cross_Reference:
Citation_Information:
Originator: Wall, F.
Publication_Date: 1921
Title: Orphidia Taprobanica or the Snakes of Ceylon
Geospatial_Data_Presentation_Form: publication
Publication_Information:
Publication_Place: Colombo
Publisher: Govt. Printer

Data_Quality_Information:
Logical_Consistency_Report: Unknown
Completeness_Report: Unknown
Lineage:
Process_Step:
Process_Description:
Task 1: Diet of Burmese pythons:
We continue to examine the stomach and lower gastro-intestinal tracts of euthanized pythons. Methods involve extracting and washing the stomach and gastro-intestinal tract of each individual python with ethanol, followed by close stereoscopic examination for feathers, hair, teeth, bone fragments, claws and scales. An attempt is made to identify mammal, bird and reptile remains to lowest taxonomic level possible.
Process_Date: Unknown
Process_Step:
Process_Description:
Task 2: Thermal biology of Burmese pythons:
To record body temperature of free-ranging Burmese pythons, we surgically implant miniature, temperature sensitive data-loggers (micro-dataloggers). We also radiotag each snake to track their movements. Dataloggers are coated with plastic tool dip before implantation into the body cavity, and we program each logger to record temperature every 30 minutes. After a period of time (e.g., one year), we will surgically remove the data-loggers and download the data. We will take simultaneous measurement of environmental temperatures using biophysical snake models (constructed to have the same thermal properties as live snakes) in different thermal environments to allow detailed interpretation of data that can be used for bioenergetic modeling and determination of activity patterns.
Process_Date: Unknown
Process_Step:
Process_Description:
Task 3: Preliminary conceptual bioenergetic model for Burmese pythons:
To fully evaluate the impacts of pythons on native biological diversity, we must synthesize what is known with the new information provided in Task 1 and Task 2 to develop a preliminary conceptual bioenergetic model for Burmese pythons. While we will know what they are eating from Task 1 (Diet of Burmese pythons) and we will have thermal profiles for tagged pythons Task 2 (Thermal biology of Burmese pythons), we seek to quantify the number and type of each specimen that they may be eating. This type of "impact" has not yet been quantified for this exotic species. We will also use the thermal data in particular to determine when pythons may be more available for removal, i.e., when they may be basking more and out on levees and roads. Such time periods would be ideal targets for python census and removal programs. A new test of python accelerometers also looks promising for determining very fine scale python activity patterns.
Process_Date: Unknown
Process_Step:
Process_Description:
Task 4: Inform removal programs:
We are synthesizing results of Task 2 (Thermal biology of Burmese pythons) along with radio-tracking results to understand python activity and movement patterns. Temperature affects nearly every aspect of snake biology, and understanding thermal biology allows detailed inferences regarding activity and microhabitat use of pythons providing data. Such data can be used for the development of more effective python control mechanisms. Because we use micro-dataloggers to automatically monitor the body temperatures of free-ranging pythons in Task 2, our resulting data allows us to develop a better understanding of python activity, microhabitat use, and feeding. Such data will allow better predictions of when animals are exposed and visible, and thus available for capture and removal. Thermal data along with very fine scale activity information (derived from a current pilot study with accelerometers) also may indicate when pythons are feeding helping to determine whether it is better to bait or not to bait python traps that may be deployed within the Greater Everglades to protect native resources.
Process_Date: Unknown

Distribution_Information:
Distributor:
Contact_Information:
Contact_Person_Primary:
Contact_Person: Heather S. Henkel
Contact_Organization: U.S. Geological Survey
Contact_Address:
Address_Type: mailing and physical
Address: 600 4th Street South
City: St. Petersburg
State_or_Province: FL
Postal_Code: 33701
Country: USA
Contact_Voice_Telephone: 727-502-8028
Contact_Facsimile_Telephone: 727-502-8182
Contact_Electronic_Mail_Address: hhenkel@usgs.gov
Distribution_Liability: The data have no explicit or implied guarantees.

Metadata_Reference_Information:
Metadata_Date: 20140929
Metadata_Contact:
Contact_Information:
Contact_Person_Primary:
Contact_Person: Heather S. Henkel
Contact_Organization: U.S. Geological Survey
Contact_Address:
Address_Type: mailing and physical
Address: 600 4th Street South
City: St. Petersburg
State_or_Province: FL
Postal_Code: 33701
Country: USA
Contact_Voice_Telephone: 727-502-8028
Contact_Facsimile_Telephone: 727-502-8182
Contact_Electronic_Mail_Address: sofia-metadata@usgs.gov
Metadata_Standard_Name:
FGDC Biological Data Profile of the Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata
Metadata_Standard_Version: FGDC-STD-001.1-1999
Metadata_Access_Constraints:
The SOFIA staff were unable to contact the principal investigator(s) for this project, and therefore were unable to obtain a review of the information in the metadata record. Any questions about the information should be directed to the Primary Contact Person listed near the bottom of the metadata record. This metadata record may have been copied from the SOFIA website and may not be the most recent version. Please check https://sofia.usgs.gov/metadata to be sure you have the most recent version.

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Last updated: 23 December, 2016 @ 01:49 PM (KP)