Pythons Invading Florida: How Science is Fighting Back

Alexander-Lakhanpal-plastic

Florida is known for their Everglades being homes to large gators, pesky mosquitos and now 15-feet long pythons. The Burmese Pythons are not native to Florida but have populated enough to negatively influence the natural food cycle of the Everglades and become a threat to humans. These invasive snakes are big, hidden, and reproduce in large amounts. Researchers and scientists are studying not only their influence on the food chain but also how to get rid of this species from the area.

 

The Invasion

The reasons for this quick increase of pythons are quite simple. Not only South Florida the perfect wet, mammal-rich environment for snakes to thrive, these snakes are egg-producing machines. One single female can lay over 50 eggs. The population of pythons has increased so much that the state has created programs that allow for rewards for the successful elimination and capturing of pythons. Many of the pythons being captured through this program are spanning over 10 feet long and are becoming so large that they have the ability to consume a grown adult. These snakes have the ability to grow to over 20 feet long and could consume a human in minutes.

 

The Food Chain

One of the other negative impacts of the increasing presence of pythons is their influence on the availability of food in the Everglades. Pythons eat many sized mammals from small rats to large deer and anything in between. These snakes are now clearing out many of the food sources for other animals and insects, especially mosquitos.

Prior to the arrival of pythons, hispid cotton rats were about 15 percent of the mosquitoes’ diet. Mosquitos also preyed on raccoons, opossums, and deer. Due to pythons taking a bite out of the other animals’ populations, mosquitos are left to only rats. Their diet now is made up of three-quarters rat. The negative to mosquitoes feeding off of rats more means there is an increase of them spreading the Everglades virus, which is common among rats of the Everglades. Nathan Burkett-Cadena, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of entomology has stated, “As far as I am aware, this is the first time that researchers have found that an invasive predator (such as the python) has caused an increase in contact between mosquitoes and hosts of a human pathogen,”.

New Research on Super Bugs

The term “super bug” may be a scary idea but the more we research this global issue, the more we can prevent them from taking over. Superbugs refer to illnesses that normal vaccines or modern medications can not seem to manage because they have become resistant to modern medicine. Imagine the common cold that not even antibiotics can not take care of. There have been some more recent breakthroughs with the superbug situation but there are a few things that everyone must know.

 

In the U.S.

In 2015, it was reported that 2 billion people get infected with superbugs and that over 2,000 die from them. The government has also stepped in and begun releasing plans on how to combat this life threatening issue hitting the medical field and society itself. Superbugs can form from any type of bacteria. The worry is that doctors will run out of antibiotics to treat them.

 

Recent Discoveries

Combining Vaccines

Researchers from the University of Buffalo has found that a new trio of antibiotics will be able to stand up to these antibiotic-resistant microbes. The researchers turned to new antibiotic dosing strategies by creating antibiotic cocktails. They conducted studies of multiple different combinations of over 15 antibiotics paired with polymyxin B to find that after 24 hours, the bacteria were undetectable. On a more technical level, the microbes had the ability to regrow to normal after 96 hours. It was only the triple combination that allowed for the prevention of regrowth in bacteria.

 

Bats and Bees?

New research out of Halifax is also looking for alternative ways to fight medicine-resistant “bugs”. Rather than combining different vaccines to halt bacteria growth, this research is looking for a more natural solution. Bats and bees are now being researched to find new ways to fight bacteria. These two creatures are always in bacteria’s way and have biologically adapted to naturally fight off bacterial infections. There are millions of different bacteria thriving in the same places where bats and bees thrive. With a better understanding of how bats form white-nose syndrome or how colony collapse disorder occurs in bee groups.

A better understanding of how this influences other animals could lead to a better understanding of how we can handle the situation occurring in humans. Superbugs could become a much more prevalent issue in society if we do not find new ways to keep them at bay.