Experts at the St. Louis Zoo are trying to figure out how a 62-year-old ball python laid seven eggs despite not being near a male python for more than 15 years. Mark Wanner, manager of herpetology at the zoo, said it is unusual but not rare for ball pythons to reproduce asexually. The snakes also sometimes store sperm for delayed fertilization.
The birth also is unusual because ball pythons usually stop laying eggs long before they reach their 60s, Wanner said.
"She'd definitely be the oldest snake we know of in history," to lay eggs, Wanner said, noting the she is the oldest snake ever documented in a zoo.
The python laid the eggs July 23. Three of the eggs remain in an incubator, two were used for genetic sampling and snakes in the other two eggs did not survive, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The eggs that survive should hatch in about a month.
The genetic sampling will show whether the eggs were reproduced sexually or asexually, called facultative parthenogenesis.
The snake who laid the eggs has not been given a name but is known as Number 361003, the Post-Dispatch reported. She came to the zoo in 1961 from a private owner.