Python’s homing trick stuns scientists

PARIS, March 19, 2014 (AFP) – The Burmese python has a built-in compass that allows it to slither home in a near-straight line even if released dozens of kilometres away, researchers said Wednesday. Capable of growing over five metres (16 feet) long, pythons are among the world’s largest snakes. Although native to South and Southeast Asia, the snakes have taken up residence in South Florida’s Everglades National Park, possibly after being released as unwanted pets.

They have adapted so well to their new habitat that they now pose a serious threat to several species which they hunt as prey.

Scientists captured six of the pythons in the Everglades, placed them in sealed, plastic containers, and drove them to locations between 21 and 36 kilometres (13-22 miles) away.

They implanted radio trackers in the animals and followed their movements with GPS readings from a small fixed-wing plane — measuring their direction and speed.

All the snakes immediately oriented themselves towards the place where they were captured, with five of the six returning to within five kilometres (three miles) of that spot.

The sixth veered somewhat off course as it was nearing its destination.

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