Blood-Sucking Parasites in Florida Snakes

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Blood-Sucking Parasites in Florida Snakes

Jada Sands, Arts and Entertainment Editor

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Recently a Florida professor found something startling while examining a dead pygmy rattlesnake. He opened up the snake and to his surprise inside there was a blood-sucking parasite/worm that killed this Florida rattlesnake. This worm is attaching itself to a snake’s lungs and digestive system making the snake sick and eventually killing the innocent snake.

A biology professor at Stetson University in DeLand, FL, Dr. Terence Farrall said, that these parasite/worms “have never been found in pygmy rattlesnakes before.” He took a parasite sample from another snake he has studied, a mud snake, and has concluded this snake killing parasite is in over ten other Florida species. This frightening news has made the team in DeLand (college students working with Dr. Farrall) question where this invasive parasite has come from. The Burmese Python is known to be an invasive species brought from Asia and is now in South and Central Florida. It is suspected that the blood-sucking invaders have caught a ride from the Burmese Python brought to Florida from Asia.

Research at Auburn University has uncovered the same parasite in road-killed pythons and other Florida snakes in 2012. When Farrel studied the pygmy rattlesnake recently he was surprised and said, “That was our first realization that we had a strange new parasite invading our snakes,” Farrell said. “We’ve been studying these snakes for decades and were really surprised to see this.” He was very surprised by the discovery of the parasites in the upper Florida peninsula. He realized although the Burmese Pythons were limited to South Florida for the climate, the parasites are not. He reported that the worms could be traveling North at a rate of 20 miles a year.

So far in these chain of events, Farrall has discovered 10 pygmy rattlesnakes with this parasite/worm but has yet to conclude how often it kills the host. He has made it clear that the pygmy pythons have been the most affected and have been harboring the most parasites although this problem has spread to over 10 Florida snakes. He has also brought to attention that although right the worms are only getting to Florida snakes, the rate of the worms travel North has made it apparent this problem will be much bigger into the United States if not stopped soon. The pygmy rattlesnake count is already dropping and this parasite attaching itself to snakes lungs and digestive system will kill many more snakes throwing off the ecosystem.