Fecund little mammals can’t keep up with voracious reptiles
Todd Pierson/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Even breeding like bunnies can’t save some mammals in Everglades National Park from invading Burmese pythons.
When the heat of summer revved up snake activity, the pythons ate up to a fifth of a study population of marsh rabbits each week, researchers report March 18 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. That rate of predation over the long term is “not even close to sustainable” for the once-abundant rabbit population, says mammal ecologist and study coauthor Robert McCleery of the University of Florida in Gainesville. It’s the best evidence yet — contrary to what a mammal ecologist might predict — that the pythons really could wipe out populations of a famously fast-breeding mammal, he says.
McCleery had been skeptical that pythons by themselves could do so much damage. Marsh rabbits (Sylvilagus palustris) can produce six litters a year of multiple young, he