WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A sick python named Nike which was found submerged in a suburban pool in Queensland, Australia was severely infested with hundreds of ticks.
- Although ticks are commonly found in mammals, 30 percent of wild Australian snakes are found to carry ticks.
- According to experts, such extreme infestation most especially occurs when the snake is sick or with a compromised immune system.
A recently captured snake in Queensland, Australia ended up being covered with hundreds of bloodsucking ticks that made it look like living scales.
In an email to Live Science, assistant professor Rebecca Trout Fryxell of the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the University of Tennessee wrote that while ticks are often associated with mammals, snakes and other reptiles are also often parasitized by these arthropods.
A February 2018 survey revealed that 30 percent of 2,000 wild Australian snakes had ticks which are commonly found in woodland habitats.
In a Facebook video shared on January 10, Tony Harrison together with Gold Coast and Brisbane Snake Catcher related that when they retrieved the snake from a suburban swimming pool, the unfortunate reptile was blanketed in at least a couple hundred ticks.
According to the Facebook post, clusters of ticks of various shapes and sizes studded the python’s head and body. It was a “parasitic infestation which Harrison had never seen in 26 years of snake catching.”
Fryxell explained that the different sizes in the ticks infesting the snake indicated different sexes and life stages, and the “amount of blood consumed by the tick.”
The extreme infestation likely happened because the snake was already sick, California Polytechnic State University professor of biological sciences Emily Taylor told Live Science.
Normally, when ticks bite animals, the animal produces an immune response that can kill the tick or slow down its feeding. However, if an animal’s immune system is compromised, Taylor said that “you may see a greater number of ticks feeding.”
In addition, bites from a few ticks won’t really hurt an animal that much, but in cases when the animal is sick, blood loss caused by hundreds of ticks could result in death. “It’s a bad sign in general when an animal has that many parasites on it,” she added.
Dubbed as Nike, the snake was brought to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital Foundation in Queensland where 511 ticks were removed from its body. Because the reptile was found partially submerged in a pool, Harrison thinks that it was attempting to drown the ticks.
Although this behavior has never been observed in snakes, Taylor said that since “nature works in weird ways,” it could be that either the animal sought water or it could have been just a coincidence.”
In the meantime, the now tick-free python is still resting at the facility but still unwell with a “nasty infection” which doctors are trying to clear up. Hospital representatives reported on Facebook that they are hopeful he will fully recover and be returned to the wild in the next months.
Source: Live Science