The Python Problem
TIME ALLOTMENT: Four 45-minute class
OVERVIEW: Using segments from the PBS series Nature episode, Invasion of the
Giant Pythons, students will explore pythons and their impact on other species. In
the Introductory Activity, students will learn about python digestion and
unscramble photos illustrating a python’s digestion of prey. In the Learning
Activity, students will learn how pythons have migrated to new environments and
the dangers they pose to other species. Students will learn how invasive species,
such as pythons, can threaten native species. In the Culminating Activity, students
will learn about the Key Largo woodrat and ways scientists are trying to protect
the species from pythons. Students will then explore a native species in their own
region and create a presentation about the species, how it is being threatened,
Students will be able to:
■Explain where pythons live and how they have moved
from one environment to another.
■List python prey and discuss the process by which
pythons capture and digest food.
■Describe dangers pythons pose to native species.
■Discuss efforts to rescue the Key Largo woodrat and
the reasons why scientists are launching these efforts.
■Discuss one endangered or threatened local species
and efforts being taken to help that species.
Content Standard C: Life Science
Fundamental concepts and principles that
underlie this standard include:
The Interdependence of Organisms
• Organisms both cooperate and compete in ecosystems. The interrelationships and
interdependencies of these organisms may generate ecosystems that are stable for
hundreds or thousands of years.
• Living organisms have the capacity to produce populations of infinite size, but
environments and resources are finite. This fundamental tension has profound
effects on
the interactions between organisms.
•Human beings live within the world’s ecosystems. Increasingly, humans modify
ecosystems as a result of population growth, technology, and consumption. Human
destruction of habitats through direct harvesting, pollution, atmospheric changes, and
other factors is threatening current global stability, and if not addressed, ecosystems will
from netbook or device
Invasion of the Giant Pythons, selected segments
Clip 1: Dinner Time
An overview of how a python captures and digests its
Clip 2: It’s Raining Pythons
A close look at how pythons have entered new
Clip 3: Beware: Pythons
A description of the dangers that pythons pose to other
Clip 4: Saving the Rats
A look at efforts to protect the Key Largo woodrat from
• US Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species
• This website includes a variety of information
about endangered species. The “Species
Search” page
used in the Culminating Activity, features a
US map where visitors can locate
endangered plant and animal species
throughout the country.
Websites Cont’
Optional (for research in Culminating
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration
This website includes a variety of
information about the Everglades, including
facts about
plants and animals:
Websites Cont’
California Department of Fish and Game/ Invasive
Species Program This website contains
information about invasive species in California and
efforts being taken to reduce their negative effects on
native species and environments.
South Florida Natural Resources Center/ Everglades
National Park: Natural Resources Management/
Burmese Pythons
ctSheetHiRes.pdf. This fact sheet provides detailed
information about Burmese pythons and efforts
underway to
monitor and control the python population.
• Click audio to start.
What do you know about pythons?
Are they
What rate
do pythons
move from
one place to
What prey
do pythons
Procedure on how to reply to blog:
1. Go to Mrs. LaRue’s blog
2. Sign into Google with your user
3. Click on your hour and start your blog with
your last name and reply to questions on
slide 8.
4. Complete this assignment by tomorrow,
Wednesday, 5-9-12.
Burmese Python
Python molurus bivittatus
Where do Burmese Pythons
Native to the jungles and grassy marshes
of Southeast Asia, Burmese pythons are
among the largest snakes on Earth. They
are capable of reaching 23 feet (7 meters)
or more in length and weighing up to 200
pounds (90 kilograms) with a girth as big
as a telephone pole.
Where do Burmese
Pythons Live?
How do they kill their prey?
They kill by
grasping a
victim with
their sharp
teeth, coiling
their bodies
around the
animal, and
until it
They have
ligaments in
their jaws that
allow them to
swallow all
Behavior of
Burmese Pythons
When young, they will spend
much of their time in the trees.
However, as they mature and
their size and weight make tree
climbing unwieldy, they
transition to mainly grounddwelling. They are also excellent
swimmers, and can stay
submerged for up to 30 minutes
before surfacing for air.
Burmese pythons are
solitary animals and are
generally only seen together
during spring mating.
Females lay clutches of up to
100 eggs, which they
incubate for two to three
months. To keep their eggs
warm, they continually
contract, or shiver, their
Answer the following question on paper
before class tomorrow:
1. Explain how the pythons get to
2. Infer how the invasion of the
pythons will impact the native
species of Florida?
3. What are 3 threats that pythons
pose on native species in
Present Day
By year 2100
Burmese pythons are
carnivores, surviving
primarily on small
mammals and birds.
They have poor
eyesight, and stalk prey
using chemical
receptors in their
tongues and heatsensors along the jaws.
What do we
Key Largo Woodrat
(Neotoma floridana smalli)
Federal Status:
(August 31, 1984)
What is a Key Largo Woodrat?
The color of the Key Largo woodrat is described as
sepia or
grey-brown above shading into cinnamon on the sides,
cream or white ventral coloration. The forefeet are white
the wrist and the hindfeet are primarily white to the
The Key Largo woodrat has large ears, protuberant
eyes, and
a hairy tail. The head-and-body-length of the Key Largo
woodrat ranges from 120 to 230 mm, their tail length
from 130 to 190 mm, and their hindfoot length ranges
Where they live
The Key Largo woodrat is a resident of tropical hardwood
hammocks, the climax vegetation of upland areas in the Keys.
Hammocks provide a shady, humid microclimate with less wind
and temperature variation than more exposed habitats. The soils
are poorly developed, typically consisting of shallow humus and
litter overlying the limestone substrate, but may become deep in
some forested areas.
The Key Largo woodrat is
capable of reproducing all
year, although seasonal
peaks in winter are evident
(Hersh 1981). Key Largo
woodrat litter sizes range
from one to four young, with
two most common. Female
woodrats can produce two
litters a year (Brown 1978b).
Sex ratio favors 1.2 : 1 male
to female (Hersh 1981). Both
sexes require about 5
months to reach sexual
maturity (Hersh 1981). The
life expectancy of the Key
Largo woodrat is unknown,
but is probably similar to
other subspecies of Neotoma
floridana, which may live for
3 years but probably average
less than 1 year (Fitch and
Guess what we Eat?
Key Largo woodrats are
nocturnal omnivores,
but feed primarily on a
variety of leaves, buds,
seeds, and fruits (Brown
Answer the following questions
before class tomorrow:
• 1. Explain 3 different ways that we can
protect the Key Largo Woodrat.
2. Infer why it is important to save the Key
Largo Woodrat from extinction.
Answer the following questions
before class tomorrow:
• Please go to the following website
Click on the state of Florida and answer
the following question:
Explain 3 organisms that could be prey
items on the ENDANGERED list in Florida.
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